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Ocean search for missing Argentine submarine, 44 crew suspended

By Renzo Pipoli
Ocean search for missing Argentine submarine, 44 crew suspended
Ocean Infinity was using autonomous underwater vehicles to search for an Argentine navy submarine that went missing in the Atlantic Ocean last November. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Ocean search efforts for the Argentine navy submarine ARA San Juan and its crew of 44 that went missing in the south Atlantic last November have been suspended while data is analyzed, relatives of the missing sailors said Friday.

Rescuers are studying all previous information to determine how to continue, a statement jointly supplied by relatives of the disappeared crew said Friday in a Tweet.

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"There are no words to describe the situation of uncertainty that we are living," another tweet from "the 44 of Ara" added.

The company in charge of the search, Ocean Infinity, said Friday the search efforts will continue.

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"Ocean Infinity is pleased to confirm that it is continuing with the search for the ARA San Juan. We remain fully committed to the search and are working hard to try and bring answers to those affected by this tragedy," CEO Oliver Plunkett said in a statement.

"There can be no guarantee of success, but we must remain optimistic for the remainder of the operation."

Ocean Infinity won a bid in August to take up the search. It reported in September the start of its search efforts in the Atlantic Ocean, about 300 nautical miles east of the Commodoro Rivadavia port in southern Argentina.

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At the time it said that it was using five autonomous underwater vehicles and a team of about 60, in addition to three Argentine navy officers and four family members on board the Seabed Constructor ship.

Ocean Infinity would collect a payment if it finds the submarine.

The submarine lost contact the morning of Nov. 15, 2017 while traveling from Mar del Plata, near Buenos Aires, to Ushuaia, on the southern tip of the continent.

The U.S. Southern Command aided in the search for more than five weeks, ending its effort near the end of December. In late November, the Argentine navy declared there was no possibility of rescuing the crew alive.

The relatives of the missing crew and federal judge Marta Yanez put pressure on a resumed recovery effort for the missing submarine. Yanez said earlier this year it was important to determine whether there was negligence involved in dispatching a submarine that could have had mechanical problems.

A previous bidding effort in the first half of the year carried out by the Argentine Defense Ministry failed to tap a search company. The bidding was then transferred to the Argentine navy, which chose Ocean Infinity.

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The submarine is a TR-1700 diesel-electric submarine manufactured in Germany.

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