Submarine Sailor Dies After Being Found Injured on Shipyard Pier

Crewmembers attached to the submarine USS Montana.
Crewmembers attached to the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Montana man the ship during a commissioning ceremony in Norfolk, Va., June 25, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer John Smolinski)

The Navy has confirmed that a sailor assigned to a newly commissioned attack submarine was found injured Monday on a pier near where the boat was docked and was later pronounced dead.

The sailor, assigned to the USS Montana, was found unresponsive by another crew member, according to the Navy.

"The injured Sailor was taken to Riverside Regional Medical Center and pronounced deceased," Cmdr. Paul Macapagal, a spokesman for Submarine Force Atlantic, said in a statement provided to media outlets.

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The Montana is a brand-new submarine. Construction of the boat began in 2018, and the vessel was handed over to the Navy by Huntington Ingalls in March 2022. The sub was commissioned in June 2022 but is still at the shipyard for post-shakedown maintenance.

Jeff Houston, a spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, confirmed that the law enforcement agency "is conducting a thorough investigation into the death of the Sailor, as we do in response to any non-combat, medically unattended deaths of Department of the Navy service members."

Houston would not comment or confirm any details about the incident, including the time of day the sailor was found on the pier.

Todd Corillo, a spokesman for Huntington Ingalls' shipbuilding division, said that "out of respect for our customer and to protect the privacy of military families, Newport News Shipbuilding does not discuss deaths of our U.S. Navy teammates, with the exception of a workplace accident."

The Newport News shipyard and the conditions that sailors live under while stationed aboard ships undergoing work there have come under heightened scrutiny since the revelation of a cluster of suicides aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington that was first reported by last April.

Since then, the Navy has released official reports that have underscored difficult conditions, and members of Congress have weighed in to pressure the service to improve life for sailors.

However, the submarine community is also fundamentally different from the surface Navy in that it is made up entirely of sailors who volunteered for the position.

Furthermore, sailors in the submarine service undergo a series of screenings and tests to ensure that they are more resilient than their surface counterparts, given the potential for long tours undersea.

One major evaluation, known as "subscreen," is conducted at the earliest stages of training and involves a 260-question test. The test asks would-be submariners everything from their feelings about serving on submarines, to claustrophobia and isolation, to suicide and depression.

The spokesperson for the Navy said that they "deeply mourn the loss of our shipmate, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Sailor's family, friends and coworkers during this difficult time."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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