Tuesday, August 09, 2005 | The Navy team sent as part of an international effort to aid a trapped Russian mini-sub returned to San Diego Monday, happy to be home but proud to have been called upon to help with such an urgent rescue.

The 32-member Deep Submergence Unit landed at Naval Air Station North Island around 2:30 p.m., about three days after leaving to join the multinational scramble to save seven men onboard a Russian AS-28 mini-submarine, which was trapped off the coast of Kamchatka after becoming entangled in underwater cables Thursday.

The sub crew were rescued when a British remote vehicle severed the interfering cables in 600 feet of water only hours from the time their oxygen was expected to run out. The crew, six Russian sailors and a representative from the mini-sub’s maker, all survived.

“It was like the weight of the world was off your shoulders,” said Master Diver Thomas Perkins about hearing of the sub’s successful rescue.

The unit landed in Russia at a civilian airport Friday and was escorted by the Russian military to a support vessel, where the preparations for departure began. Because they had to load and outfit a foreign ship with thousands of pounds of equipment, Petty Officer First Class Aaron Evans said, the process took about 10 hours.

“That’s where the Russians helped the most, with welding and cutting stuff for us. We had thrown the lines off and we were backing out of the pier to go out there [when news of the rescue came],” he said.

Three Americans – two divers and a physician, all based in San Diego – aided the British group that cut the sub free, using a “Scorpio-45” remote-control submersible.

Though he wasn’t there for the rescue, Perkins said he was proud of the three countries’ unusual effort.

“Now I’m looking forward to going home and taking a shower,” he said.

For more on the submarine rescue effort, read AP coverage.

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