Tragic irony of navy officer's death

Lieutenant Commander Gillian Hector, who died this week in a submarine accident off the Kommetjie coast, was fascinated by submarines.

Lieutenant Commander Gillian Hector. Picture: Facebook/communitycouncil2021

Lieutenant Commander Gillian Hector became fascinated with submarines during her first year in the navy.
At that time, in 2010, she had been studying at the military academy in Saldanha Bay.

Ten years later, she spoke to Sara-Jayne Makwala King on Cape Talk's Weekend Breakfast show about how she became the first woman in Africa to navigate a submarine.

That submarine had been the SAS Manthatisi - the same vessel she had been on when she lost her life along with three other SA navy officers off the coast of Kommetjie earlier this week.

"It was just exciting. So many things were happening, and I think at that time I just wanted to know more. It sparked an interest in me and I just thought I needed to go back and see what this life was about," she told Makwala King in 2020.

READ: The death of Lieutenant Commander Gillian Hector is a great loss

Hector said she had to work hard to earn the respect of her fellow mariners, and as a navigator she had to make tough decisions.

"Myself as a combat officer, as a navigator, you need to be able to know what is going on in the technical side, in the control centre so that you're able to make the decisions."

The SA Navy is set to do a full inquiry into the events that led to the tragic incident.