First South African woman to navigate submarine dies

World Friday 22/September/2023 07:51 AM
By: DW
First South African woman to navigate submarine dies

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on Thursday named three submariners who died in an incident off the coast of Cape Town on Wednesday.

Lieutenant Commander Gillian Elizabeth Hector was named among three who died when a large wave struck the SAS Manthatisi while being resupplied at sea.

Hector was celebrated in South Africa, as being the first female officer on the African continent to navigate a submarine.

According to the SANDF, the submarine — one of three German-built Type 209/1400 Heroine-class submarines in the South African naval fleet — had been heading towards Cape Town and was conducting what it called a "vertical replenishment" operation involving a helicopter.

A large wave struck the vessel, sweeping a number of crew members off the deck.

The replenishment operation was immediately called off and a rescue effort was launched after the navy personnel were swept into the sea.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said that one female officer had to be extricated from inside the vessel.

"Sadly, despite extensive CPR efforts, the female officer was declared deceased," the NSRI said in a statement.

Local advocacy group, Women for Change, posted a tribute to Hector and her crew members on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, and extended condolences to the families of the deceased.