NEWS
11/24/2017 09:58 EST | Updated 11/25/2017 08:42 EST

Canadian submariner 'really feels for' Argentines lost on sub in South Atlantic

HALIFAX — A man injured in a Canadian submarine accident says he feels for the families of 44 Argentine submarine crew members lost in the South Atlantic for nine days.

Douglas Renken was one of nine sailors treated for smoke inhalation following the deadly fire onboard HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004.

He says he has been following news of the round-the-clock international search for the Argentine submarine, and that he can "only imagine what hell it is" for the families.

The Argentine navy says an explosion occurred near the time and place where the sub went missing on Nov. 15, and that even if it's intact its crew may be running out of oxygen.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada has sent a CC-144 Challenger aircraft with equipment to assist with the search and rescue efforts.

He says the twin-engine, long-range jet departed Halifax Wednesday night in response to a request for assistance from the government of Argentina.

Sajjan said in a tweet Thursday that his thoughts and prayers are with the submariners on the ARA San Juan.

More than a dozen airplanes and ships have been participating in the multinational search despite stormy weather that has caused powerful waves.

Search teams are ranging across an area of some 480,000 square kilometres, which is roughly the size of Spain.

The German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine was commissioned in 1985 and was most recently refitted in 2014.

Some relatives of the crew have lashed out at the navy for its response and for putting their loved ones at risk in a vessel that is more than 30 years old.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 5, 2004, an electrical fire tore through the HMCS Chicoutimi while on its maiden voyage to Canada from Scotland.

Lieut. Chris Saunders, a 32-year-old father of two living in Halifax, died in the blaze.

"Once a submariner, always a submariner," Renken said by phone from his home in Sackville, N.B. "I really feel for them and their families. I absolutely feel for them."