Seaman’s bravery averted a nuclear disaster
The following is a copy of a letter from barrister and attorney Allan Doughty to the naming committee for National Heroes day. In it, he nominates Seaman Sergei A Preminin of the Soviet Navy as a national hero of Bermuda
10 February 2015
The Naming and Recognition Committee for National Heroes Day
Ministry of Community Culture and Sports
Re: The Nomination of Sergei Anatolevich Preminin as a National Hero of Bermuda
I write in response to the recent announcement of your Department that it will be accepting further nominations for the title of National Hero in advance of the 2016 National Heroes’ Day.
For years I have been disappointed by the fact that Seaman Sergei A Preminin (Deceased) of the Soviet Navy has not been bestowed with this honour.
I otherwise write to your Committee to bring to your attention what it was that Seaman Preminin did for our Island so that you may consider granting him the credit that I feel is certainly due to him.
On the 3 of October 1986, Seaman Sergei Anatolevich Preminin of the Soviet Navy was serving on Board a Soviet, Nuclear Powered, “Yankee Class”, Ballistic Missile Submarine which bore the number K-219.
The vessel in question was on patrol in the North Atlantic as part of the Cold War manoeuvres which were then commonly undertaken by the Soviet Navy. When K-219 was approximately 300 nautical miles to the East of Bermuda, she caught fire and surfaced for the purpose of controlling the blaze and managing her reactor.
After surfacing, it became apparent that the reactor was overheating and was about to enter into nuclear meltdown.
If that meltdown had taken place they would have resulted in an environmental catastrophe within the North Atlantic which almost certainly would have affected Bermuda’s marine ecosystem.
As the reactor could not be powered down automatically, it became clear to the crew the control rods required to bring the reactor under control would need to be manually inserted into the nuclear reactor’s core.
To access the reactor it would be necessary for someone to enter the Reactor Chamber that was by then already flooded with high levels of radiation. Seaman Preminin volunteered to insert the control rods.
After inserting the control rods, Seaman Preminin was unable to open the reactor chamber door due to a difference in cabin pressure caused by a nearby fire and died inside the reactor chamber of asphyxiation.
The reactor, however, was able to cool off, the crew of K-219 was saved and a nuclear disaster within our stretch of the North Atlantic was averted all on account of Seaman Preminin’s bravery.
While there are other stories of heroism within the Soviet Submarine Navy that have since been told, Seaman Preminin’s story is of particular relevance to Bermuda given the damage that could have been done to our fragile ecosystem.
At the time of his death, Seaman Preminin was a 20 year old sailor who had the rest of his life in front of him.
When faced with the possibility that his comrades might die, and that a nuclear disaster would take place if no one else stepped forward, Seaman Preminin risked walking into the Reactor Chamber fully understanding that he risked a terrible death through radiation sickness.
Knowing the odds, Seaman Preminin walked into that reactor chamber anyway, and never returned.
In my opinion, this is the story of a true hero, and is an account that needs to be told again in Bermuda. It is for that reason that I respectfully nominate Seaman Sergei Anatolevich Preminin for the title of National Hero.