MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina – Relatives of the 44 sailors aboard a submarine missing for more than two weeks pleaded on Friday with Argentina’s defense minister to ensure that the bodies of their loved ones – now presumed dead – are recovered.
Oscar Aguad, who acknowledged on Thursday that the navy no longer had any hope of rescuing the sailors alive, traveled to this seaside city southwest of Buenos Aires to meet with the families of the crew of the ARA San Juan.
“They must commit themselves to search for them and recover them,” Marcela Moyano, wife of crewmember Hernan Rodriguez, told reporters in Mar Del Plata, the San Juan’s home port, after the session with the defense minister.
“The position we took is that we won’t stop,” she said outside the gates of the navy base. “They are talking about responsibilities when what I want is that they bring my husband back and that they find the ship. Please! They need to bring them back!”
The meeting with the minister and with the navy commander, Vice Adm. Marcelo Srur, lasted about 55 minutes and according to Moyano, the tone of the discussion “was bad, with pressure, uncertainty and very little confidence.”
Yolanda Mendiola, mother of San Juan sailor Leandro Cisneros, said that a number of family members reproached Aguad for the navy’s handling of the sub’s disappearance, especially in the matter of keeping the families informed.
The San Juan was last heard from on Nov. 15, two days after the vessel left Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, for Mar del Plata.
Prior to the loss of contact, the sub’s skipper reported an apparently minor fire caused by an electrical short-circuit, but gave no indication that the San Juan was in danger.
More than a dozen countries aided Argentina in the search for the missing submarine.