Tributes are pouring in on social media after three SA Navy crew members were killed during an operation on a submarine in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Among the three, was Lieutenant Gillain Hector, the continent's first woman to navigate a submarine.
According to statement from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), an inquiry has been set up to investigate the circumstances around the tragedy, however, the SA Defence Force stated that high waves swept seven crew members out to sea during a vertical transfer.
The SANDF said the SA Navy submarine SAS Manthatisi was en route to Cape Town and was conducting a vertical transfer using the SA Air Force Maritime Lynx helicopter.
“The VERTREP evolution was immediately cancelled and efforts were launched to recover the members. A surface swimmer was dispatched from the helicopter to assist with the rescue,” the SANDF said.
“Unfortunately, the recovery operation was negatively affected by rough sea conditions.”
The SANDF said that a distress call was made to Cape Town Radio and a team from the National Sea Rescue Institute's Kommetjie station dispatched.
The SANDF said seven members were recovered with three fatalities.
“A senior officer is in critical condition. The remaining members, including the surface swimmer, are in hospital,” the SANDF said.
Hector was based at the Simon's Town naval base and according to an interview she did with Cape Talk, she developed a passion for the maritime industry as a young girl.
She shared how she was exposed to the navy in Grade 7 and later went on to become a sea cadet and joined the Navy after school. She also spoke of wanting to achieve great accomplishments in her career.
Taking to social media, a relative said Hector's loss will be felt for years to come.
“Your loss will be felt for years to come because you left your mark on this world and in everyone’s minds and lives my girl,” shared Bronwyn Nel.
“May your Mum, Bernadette Malouw, husband and baby son Tristan be comforted by God in this very sad time. Sincerest condolences to the family and friends and navy personnel who came to know and love you.”
Tiphany Harmse posted; "Rest in perfect peace Gillian Malouw. What a sad day."
Evita Meyer posted; "RIP Gillian Marlouw Hector what a remarkable person you were".