The crew aboard an Argentine icebreaker in Antarctica have paid tribute to the ill-fated submariners on the ARA San Juan, which went missing in the Argentine Sea on November 15.
The crew on the icebreaker, ARA Almirante Irizar, formed the number 44 on the ice beside the ship to remember the 44 crew members who died at sea.
The Argentine military has come under fire over its handling of the missing submarine, and in December, one month after the San Juan lost contact, the naval chief was sacked.
'They did not experience pain'
The San Juan vessel has not been recovered, making it difficult for investigators to determine exactly what went wrong. The Argentine military had suggested that a sound consistent with an explosion was detected in the south Atlantic at around the time the vessel went missing.
A retired Naval intelligence analyst, Bruce Rule, corroborated this, saying in a report via Infodefensa.com the acoustic signal was an implosion as the sub reached the depth of 648 metres. He estimated that the San Juan wreckage sank vertically at a speed between 10 and 13 knots.
"Although the crew may have known a collapse was imminent, they never knew it was occurring," said Rule, who was the lead acoustic analyst of the US Office of Naval Intelligence for 42 years.
"They did not drown or experience pain. Death was instantaneous."
According to Latin American news site Telesur, auditors in January said the vessel navigated for 39 months without interruption — going against the manufacturer's recommendation.