EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 10, 2013

'On eternal patrol'

Today marks somber anniversary of submarine tragedy


“I truly believe my husband, though he’s now with the Lord, still helps me,” Charron said. “He was a very strong man, very religious. I think he’s up there keeping me out of trouble.”

Following the Thresher loss, the Navy launched an extensive investigation, discovering a leak in an engine room seawater system as the most probable cause of the tragedy, although other causes were considered as well. After locating the Thresher’s imploded remains on the sea floor, a Court of Inquiry found she most likely sank due to a piping failure that led to a loss of power that prevented the ship from blowing its ballast tanks fast enough to avoid sinking.

Determined those on board would not die in vain, the Navy undertook a massive effort, known as “Subsafe,” for the building of all future submarines. Since the enactment of Subsafe, there have been no further losses like those of the Thresher.

“They tell us that expecting it to give us some solace, but it’s cold comfort,” said Steinel-Andriotakis, who wishes the Navy had implemented Subsafe while the Thresher was being built, so her father may not have been lost.

Built in the midst of this nation’s Cold War with the former Soviet Union, Thresher was the first of her kind, a nuclear-powered wunder-boat and the first of what was to be a fleet of similar subs to protect the nation from its Soviet nemesis.

Steinel-Andriotakis fears it may have been the emphasis on speed that the Cold War’s arms race represented that could have led to the fatal error that destroyed the Thresher 50 years ago today. She considers her father as much of a war hero of the Cold War as any other warrior who died defending this country.

And her feelings on her father’s role since his death is similar to that of Charron.

“My father’s on eternal patrol,” Steinel-Andriotakis said. “That’s how the Navy lists all those who went down with the Thresher.”

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