One of the last survivors of the sailors who sent out the first word that the submarine Thresher was lost fifty years ago today lives in Farmington. Businessman Danny Miller was a rescue diver on the Navy rescue ship Skylark that morning when the Thresher took 129 people to the bottom of the North Atlantic about 220 miles from Cape Cod.
The loss of the Thresher remains the worst submarine disaster in history. It was the first sinking of a nuclear submarine.
At least two of those who died on the Thresher that morning had ties to Missouri. Electrician’s Mate Second Class Gerald Charles Boster had been born in Shelbina in 1941. He moved to St. Louis as a child and graduated from high schoolt here. He attended what was then the Rolla Schoolf of Mines and Metallurgy before he joined the Navy. He was a member of the university’s swimming team.
Also lost was Chief Electrician’s Mate Ronald Hal Solomon, whose parents lived in Sprigfield in 1963. He had grown up in Coffeyville, Kansas.
Miller was a 20-year old Navy Diver on the Skylark that day. He still grows emotional in recalling the moments the submarine disappeared and the hours before the crew of the Skylark realized there was no hope of recovery.
The Thresher was doing test dives after an overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Yard and had gone as far down as half of its test depth, where it had stayed overnight before resuming trials taking it to deeper depths on the morning of April 10.
The Skylark carried a rescue bell that could recover people from sunken submarines as far down as about 1500 feet. But the Thresher imploded and sank in 8400 feet of water. Photographs taken of the wreckage have led analysists to believe a pipe sprung a leak allowing water to flow into the boat under high pressure. Radio transmissions indicate the Thresher blew apart about six minutes later as it sank beyond its test depth. Miller says it took several hours to realize the sub was lost.
The loss of the Thresher led to stringent new rules on submarine safety known as SUBSAFE.
Louie Seiberlich of Missourinet affiliate KREI interviewed Miller, who knows of only two other surviving crewmen who on the Skylark on that tragic day.