Note reveals Kursk crew's final hours - October 26, 2000

A memorial service for victims is due to be held on Saturday  

October 26, 2000
Web posted at: 7:13 PM EDT (2313 GMT)

MOSCOW, Russia -- Divers working to retrieve the bodies of 118 sailors killed in an explosion on the Russian submarine Kursk will concentrate on the sub's ninth compartment after a note revealed some survivors attempted to escape from there after the blast.

Fierce winds forced the divers to call off their recovery efforts late on Thursday, and it is unclear when the four bodies so far recovered will be brought to the surface the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

The bodies are due to be flown on Saturday to Severomorsk, the Northern Fleet's main port, for a memorial service.

A note found on the body of a sailor confirmed that at least 23 sailors survived the explosions which sank the nuclear submarine Kursk, a Russian Navy official said on Thursday.

Everyone aboard the nuclear submarine died after explosions left the vessel foundered on the floor of the Barents Sea on August 12. So far, the Russian Navy, working alongside Norwegian divers from a special platform, the Regalia, has recovered four bodies.

Admiral Mikhail Motsak, chief of the Russian Northern Fleet, read from a note found in the pocket of a seaman identified as Lieutenant-Captain Dmitry Kolesnikov.

"All personnel from sections, six, seven and eight have moved to section nine. There are 23 people here. We have made the decision because none of us can escape," Kolesnikov wrote in a hastily-composed note.

An emergency escape hatch is located in section nine of the submarine, and Kolesnikov said that two men attempted to use an emergency submersible to escape but could not.

The note indicated that if there were 23 people who moved to the rear section of the submarine, 95 others were in the front sections of the submarine. When work resumes on the submarine, divers will concentrate on the ninth compartment.

Kolesnikov's widow Olga, a schoolteacher, said between sobs in a brief Russian television interview from St. Petersburg: "I'm preparing for a meeting with him. I want to see him again, I want to read his letter."

Two powerful explosions were detected at around 11:30 local time on August 12 as the Kursk took part in Russian naval manoeuvres. Kolesnikov's note contains the notation 13:15, but not day or date.

For days following the accident, a Russian submersible was unable to connect with the escape hatch. A week after the accident, divers from Norway were able to open the hatch and to confirm there was no-one left alive.

Kolesnikov: "None of us can escape"  

Divers cut a hole in the steel hull of the Kursk and were able to get inside on Wednesday. Motsak said the efforts to recover the bodies would now shift to that ninth section.

Motsak said Kolesnikov's note contained a personal message for his family and said his family members will be given the note. The Navy said Kolesnikov was born in 1973 and was commander of his section of the submarine.

No cause for the sinking of the Kursk has been established. Some Russian Navy officials contend that submarine hit another vessel. Another theory is that the sub hit a World War II mine.

The two explosions are believed to have taken place in the torpedo section at the front of the ship.