Submarine with 7.5 tons of cocaine caught off Honduras

08/03/2011 12:52 PM

08/03/2011 3:44 PM

A U.S. Coast Guard C-130 first spotted the knife-shaped craft skimming along the blue-green Caribbean waters off the coast of Honduras.

The crew notified a U.S. Customs and Border Protection airplane, which flew down for a closer look, confirming everyone’s suspicions: It was a drug sub.

Boston-based Coast Guard Cutter Seneca soon stopped the “self-propelled semi-submersible” -- the first interdiction of such a sub in the Caribbean -- and detained the five crew members, who managed to sink the vessel with almost all of the 7.5 tons of cocaine loaded inside.

But Coast Guard, FBI and Honduran Navy divers, using sonar equipment, searched for almost two weeks since the mid-July event and found the submarine last Tuesday. It was floating about 50 feet below the surface and 16 nautical miles off shore near the Nicaraguan border, marking the feds’ first underwater removal of drugs from such a sub. The load’s value: $180 million.

“Working on a buoy deck is dangerous enough,” said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Niles, of the Charleston, S.C.-based Coast Guard Cutter Oak, which located the semi-submersible craft. “But this unique mission involved blending dive operations, boat operations and deck operations at the same time.”

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