Delving into tragedy of doomed submarine

Investigation: A local journalist traveled to Russia to uncover facts about the loss of the Kursk, which killed 118 men, and to explore the political climate of a failed rescue.

November 16, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

When Ramsey Flynn watched the tragedy of the Russian submarine Kursk unfold during the summer of 2000, he made it his mission to uncover the events that happened, even though he didn't speak Russian.

On Thursday, Flynn spoke to a group of students and teachers at John Carroll School in Bel Air about his investigation of the sinking of the Kursk.

One-hundred-eighteen men died on the submarine when a torpedo exploded, sending the Kursk to the bottom of the Barents Sea and touching off a worldwide rescue effort. Although most of the crew died immediately after the explosion, 23 members of the crew remained alive but trapped for several hours. Flynn was initially intrigued by Russia's rejection of Western aid.

Edward Miller, teacher of Russian at the John Carroll School, invited Flynn to give a lecture about his experience covering the Kursk's sinking. Flynn had contacted Miller for information about Russia before his first trip.

Flynn, former editor of Baltimore and Philadelphia magazines and currently director of Flynn Media Group, had recently lost a position at Brill's Content when he decided to investigate the sinking of the Kursk.

With a business visa, but without journalistic accreditation, Flynn flew to Russia in October 2000, just after 12 bodies were brought up from the sunken submarine. He pitched an article idea about the Kursk to Men's Journal, which helped cover some of his expenses. Flynn said he is still $1,000 in debt from his pursuit of publishing a book about the sinking. His article was published in a 2002 anthology, Wild Stories: The Best of Men's Journal, a compilation of travel and adventure essays.

Flynn flew to Russia four more times and conducted more than 200 interviews through interpreters. He said he was suspected of espionage.

He says he will not go back to Russia unless President Vladimir V. Putin or another high-ranking official agrees to speak to him.

"It is a tragedy that should not have happened. The Russians had no business taking a ... vessel with a grossly unprepared crew and forcing them into the ocean with a weapon they no longer had confidence in," Flynn said.

The dozen students also listened to Flynn explain how he believed political policies from the Cold War factored into Russia's and the United States' response to the Kursk emergency.

"What my book will show is that there were a lot of senior officials on the Western side that are still fighting the Cold War," he said.

Flynn's book, Cry From the Deep: The Sinking of the Kursk, published by HarperCollins, is expected to be out in June.

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