The crushed and imploded wreckage of an Argentine submarine that disappeared has been pictured lying on the seabed almost exactly a year after it went missing.
The ARA San Juan submarine was located in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday at a depth of 2,600 feet, crushing the last hopes for relatives of the 44 crew.
Pictures taken by an underwater robot show a propeller, the sub’s bow with torpedo-launching tubes and an upper section of the vessel lying on the ocean floor.
The vessel’s hull had been ‘crushed inwards’ and fragmented pieces of the wreckage that were up to 30 meters long were spotted in a ‘moon-like zone with craters and canyons’ said Navy Captain Enrique Balbi.
The crushed and fragmented piece of the ARA San Juan submarine which was located in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday
The vessel’s hull had been ‘crushed inwards’ and fragmented pieces of the wreckage that were up to 30 meters long were spotted lying on the seabed
Pictures taken by an underwater robot show the submarine’s propeller lying on the ocean floor
The Seabed Constructor, a vessel owned by US search firm Ocean Infinity, which set out in September on the latest attempt to find the San Juan, made the discovery.
There has been ‘positive identification of the ARA San Juan,’ at a depth of 2,600 feet, a statement on Twitter from the navy said.
Admiral Jose Villan, the navy’s new top commander, said that the rough terrain on the ocean floor made it difficult for search vessels, which had already trawled the site, to find the sub.
The Argentine military submarine ARA San Juan. The remains of the vessel were found in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday
The navy lost contact with the submarine on November 15 last year, about 280 miles from the Argentine coast.
It was on its way back to base from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina.
The families of the 44 crew members who perished in the accident have been officially informed.
Luis Niz, the father of one of the missing sailors said: ‘I still had hopes that they could be alive.’
Yolanda Mendiola, the mother of crewman Leandro Cisneros, 28, said: ‘We are with the other relatives. They are going to show us the photos. They say that our youngsters are inside.
‘We are all destroyed here.’
Signs, a bouquet of flowers and banners in support of the 44 crew members of the missing at sea ARA San Juan submarine
A small group of family members protested outside the naval base Saturday, holding a banner emblazoned with the number ’44’ – for the lost crew members.
Lawyer Sonia Krescher said: ‘We are going to ask them to refloat it. We need to see the bodies and know what happened.’
Cecila Kaufmann, who lost her husband Luis Leiva, added: ‘now that they’ve found it, they need to give us back our loved ones.’
Navy spokesman, Rodolfo Ramallo, told Todo Noticias TV that the Ocean Infinity ship ‘decided to do a new search and, thanks to God, it was able to find the zone.
‘Now another chapter opens. From the analysis of the state in which the submarine has been found, we will see how to proceed.’
The navy has been fiercely criticized for its handling of the operation since first reporting the submarine overdue at Mar del Plata on November 16, 2017.
Relatives of the 44 crew members of the missing at sea ARA San Juan submarine embrace outside the Argentine Naval Base
Francisca Soria (pictured left), mother of Argentinian missing crew member David Melian, is embraced by Victoria Morales (pictured right), mother of Argentine missing Corporal Esteban Garcia
It was only several days into the tragedy that navy officials acknowledged the old, German-built submarine had reported a problem with its batteries in its final communication of November 15.
Nearly 10 days later, the navy confirmed there had been an explosion on board, which experts said was likely linked to the battery problem.
An air and sea search involved units from 13 countries but the majority withdrew before the end of 2017, as the wintry South Atlantic refused to give up its secrets.
Relatives of the 44 crew members of the missing at sea ARA San Juan submarine react outside the Argentine Naval Base where the submarine sailed from, in Mar del Plata, Argentina
The Seabed Constructor is equipped with cameras that can be submerged to a depth of 6,000 meters. It was to receive a reward of $7.5 million if it found the missing sub.
Before it departed for its mission, Luis Tagliapietra, whose son Alejandro was a lieutenant on the San Juan, described it as ‘the last opportunity to find them.’
Ocean Infinity was also assigned the task of searching for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which vanished without trace in March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.