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San Juan nuclear submarine in false alarm drama

March 14, 2007

Washington, D.C. - A false alarm led the Pentagon overnight to scramble to save a nuclear-powered submarine that U.S. Navy officials feared was lying helpless on the ocean floor off Jacksonville, Fla.

A false alarm led the Pentagon overnight to scramble to save a nuclear-powered submarine that U.S. Navy officials feared was lying helpless on the ocean floor off Jacksonville, Fla.

"There were a number of events that led us to believe we had a submarine in distress," said Navy spokesman Phil McGuinn. He said communication was lost with the vessel, and Navy ships reported having seen a red flare in the area.

President Bush, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace were alerted, and top military leaders hustled into the Pentagon overnight to oversee a search-and-rescue plan for the vessel and its 140 officers and crew members, whose families were alerted of the possible tragedy.

But all fears were put to rest several hours later, when contact was re-established with the sub, whose officers told officials they had never been in peril and had had no idea of the hullabaloo that had been raised on their behalf.

Naval authorities said Wednesday they were trying to determine why communication was lost with the San Juan, whose captain is Comdr. Michael Martin, a 24-year Navy veteran.

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