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ARGENTINA | 13-11-2018 10:55

ARA San Juan: Relatives of missing officers call on Ocean Infinity to search new site

The US firm announced last week it would withdraw from its search efforts over the summer period, prompting concern and dismay among relatives of the 44 missing Navy officers.

An area in the Atlantic Ocean where suspicious banging sounds were detected will be searched by the US firm Ocean Infinity as it attempts to locate the missing ARA San Juan submarine.

The decision comes at the request of the relatives of the 44 missing officers who were onboard the vessel when it disappeared in November, 2017. To the dismay of many, the firm announced last week it would withdraw from its search efforts over the summer period.

"We will move to the north to verify the area where banging sounds (believed to be made) against the hull were detected",  a group of relatives said in a statement.

Ocean Infinity secured a government contract to search for the ARA San Juan over 60 days, with the possibility to extend its mission for an additional 60 days. The firm last weak announced it would temporarily cease its mission from Friday.

The decision to move north of the current search area comes after a non-commissioned Navy official testified to judge Marta Yáñez that suspicious banging sounds were registered in an area close to the last known location of the vessel.

"The banging sound was done with some form of strong metal item. It did not follow a rhythm that would make us think it was an engine or something similar, and no animal can make such a sound," the officer said in court statements made in May.

Some of the relatives of the 44 officers have accused the Armed Forces and the Mauricio Macri administration of a "cover-up".

"We believe there was a cover-up. They are lying to us, this is a State which is totally absent (from the investigation)", Claudio Rodríguez, the brother of missing officer Hernán Ramón Rodríguez, told DPA.

Rodriguez, a sailor with 25 years' experience in the Navy and 20 years' experience as a submarine engineer, had worked as a crew member of the ARA San Juan for 10 years. His brother now wants the search to continue despite Ocean Infinnity's plans to withdraw. "They must continue until they find him", he said.

Luis Tagliapietra, the father of lieutenant of Lieutenant Alejandro Damián Tagliapietra, also took aim at the Navy and the Government. 

"The legal investigation, in which I am a plaintiff, is stagnant. Paperwork and testimonies are gathered but nothing is being done to clarify what happened. The Executive is making everything more difficult," Tagliapietra said, speaking from the high seas, where he is an observer on Ocean Infinity's Norwegian-made flagship vessel the Seabed Constructor. 

-TIMES/PERFIL

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