Heroes of Russia

Sergei A. Preminin

Sergei A. Preminin

sailor, rank of the Hero was conferred on August 7, 1997

Sergei Preminin was born on October 18, 1965 in the village of Skornyakovo (district of Veliky Ustyug). His father was an electrician and mother worked at a flax factory. They had three sons. Sergei left school in the town of Krasavino and decided to follow in his elder brother's footsteps. Like Nikolai he graduated from the ship-repair college in Veliky Ustyug (Vologda Oblast).

On October 23, 1984 Sergei was called up for millitary service in the Navy. He served at the K-219, a Soviet strategic nuclear submarine (Project 667 A - Yankee class).

Today we recount Seaman Preminin's selfless sacrifice, which saved the lives of countless unsuspecting Americans. In 1986 the Soviet Navy was sending its fleet of obsolete boomers to patrol the eastern coast of the US. The submarine K-219 equipped with 2 nuclear reactors and carrying 19 nuclear missiles sank in the Atlantic ocean north of Bermuda with ballistic missiles on board after an explosion in one of the missile tubes. The explosion caused a leak in the fourth compartment (missile compartment). Steam and smoke from the missile fuel began to stream out of the damaged missile tube. At the time of the explosion, only one of the vessel's two reactors was running. The submarine surfaced and the other reactor was started up. Despite the fact that water was beginning to come in, a fire broke out in the fourth compartment. A short in the electrical system tripped off one of the submarine's emergency systems. One life was lost in the struggle to lower the control rods. Though still in a surfaced position, the buoyancy of the submarine was steadily impaired when water filled the main ballast tank.

When the second reactor broke down, the crew was transferred to a rescue vessel. The captain and nine crew members remained in the conning tower, but when the bow began to sink, they were obliged to abandon the ship. On October 6, at 11:03, the submarine sank with a loss of four lives (Captain 3rd Rank and three seamen). The reason for the explosion in the missile tube is unclear. There are two theories of how the accident happened: a defect in the missile tube itself or a fire that broke out following an unintentional collision with an American submarine USS Augusta. According to the second theory K-219 sustained severe damage which left her flooding and burning, with an open missile-hatch, on the surface. Her nuclear reactor began to overheat. In fact, the crew struggled for survival for 78 hours trying to localize the fire, eliminate steam and smoke and water access to the solid compartment. The wireless communication got lost.

We will never forget Sergei Preminin, who voluntarily entered the hot reactor and manually cranked down the stuck baffle-plates, thus preventing a meltdown mere miles off the American coast. But he could not leave the missile compartment. The missile-hatch got stuck because of the insreased pressure. The seaman was unable to equal the pressure in the 7th and 8th compartments. Those who stayed in the 8th compartment tried in their futile attempts to open the door. The missile compartment of the submarine became the last haven to S.Preminin (21 years old). K-219 foundered in her desperate and dangerous death-throes at a depth of 5500 metres. The rescued crew was taken first to Cuba and then to Moscow.

Sergei Preminin was posthumously awarded the title of a Hero of the Russian Federation and an Order of the Red Star.

Now in Sergei's home town there is a monument immortalizing an extraordinary deed of an ordinary Russian seaman and a commemorative marble plaque. The inscription reads: "To Russian Seaman Sergei Preminin, who prevented the world from a nuclear catastrophe."

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