The SA Navy is investigating what it calls “an extremely serious incident” during Armed Forces Week that saw a practice round fired hitting SAS Drakensberg.
The incident took place on February 19 while a number of Navy vessels were berthed in Port Elizabeth for Armed forces Day events. Indications are a gun, loaded with a practice round, aboard the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) SAS Isaac Dyobha went off. The practice round hit the supply and replenishment vessel on its port side and damaged the deck.
No one was injured.
SA Navy spokesman Captain Zamo Sithole confirmed the incident and the investigation but would not give any further details while the investigation was underway.
Indications are the OPV’s gun was accidentally fired while the gun crew were attempting to clear a blockage. This is in contravention of standard operating procedures (SOP) which indicate guns should be cleared at sea.
Navy watchers pointed out “there is no such thing as an accidental discharge – it is a negligent discharge” and that the practice round hit another Navy vessel was “probably the lesser of all evils. Imagine, even if it was a practice round, and it hit a fishing boat”.
Another asked why the gun was not cleared after shooting. “If it was fired earlier in the day at sea and reloaded the blockage should have been cleared then. Something went wrong.”
Sithole did not give an indication of how long the investigation would last or if its finding would be made public.