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Divers Who Pulled Bodies From Sub Fought Emotions

November 15, 2000|From Reuters

MOSCOW — Russian divers who worked to retrieve victims of the sunken Kursk submarine spoke publicly for the first time about the grim task of pulling bodies of men from the wreckage, newspapers reported Tuesday.

All 118 crewmen died when the nuclear-powered submarine sank Aug. 12 after being torn apart by two explosions and a fire.

"This was not our first work with drowned bodies . . . but for me it was the first time I worked on a submarine," Noviye Izvestia newspaper quoted diver Andrei Zviagintsev as saying in an interview.

"This operation was hardest for me because they were all mates, friends. Of course it had an impact on me," he said.

Russian and Norwegian divers stopped an 18-day salvage operation in the icy Barents Sea last week after recovering 12 bodies and two notes written by survivors of the initial blast who died slowly, trapped beneath the sea.

Investigations to find the cause of the disaster are still going on, with the navy saying the Kursk might have been hit by a foreign submarine. Western countries strongly deny that suggestion.

Diver Yuri Gusev told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that the team underwent special training to prepare its members for what they might see inside the Kursk.

"We visited a morgue in Severomorsk, and we were taken around the medical academy in St. Petersburg," he told the newspaper.

Asked about his memories of the scene below the Arctic waters, Gusev said he would rather not talk about it.

"Maybe I will never tell anyone about this. I just feel sorry we could not retrieve all the bodies, and I apologize to the relatives for this," he said.

All the bodies recovered from the submarine were found in the stern.

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