The mother of a sailor who should have been on the missing Argentinian submarine told yesterday how her son got off "with just seconds to spare" before the vessel began its doomed last journey.

Adrian Rothlisberger, 26, was the 45th crew member on the ARA San Juan, which disappeared without trace last week in the South Atlantic Ocean as it returned to a naval base in Mar del Plata, reported The Daily Mail.

Adrian, who has been in the navy for eight years, embarked with his 44 other colleagues on the submarine in the port of Ushuaia near the southern tip of South America.

Although he had made a formal request to his superiors for leave in order to complete paperwork for his imminent house purchase, Adrian had not heard back and assumed he would have to complete the mission, according to his mother Sandra Alvares.


She told Argentina's Clarin newspaper: "Adrian had asked his boss for some days off to sort out the documentation for the new house he was buying.

"It was going to require a lot of his time, so they ended up giving him exemption from that journey.

"He already had all his things on the submarine, and they told him he could go moments before the submarine went down. He got off with just seconds to spare."

Now back at his home in Mar del Plata, when news of the missing submarine started to emerge Ms Alvares travelled from her home in Villa Angela, in the north of Argentina, to be with his son, who she says is "in shock".

This week he changed his Facebook profile picture to a photo of his black "ARA San Juan" cap.

This week he changed his Facebook profile picture to a photo of his black 'ARA San Juan' cap. Photo / Facebook, Adrian Rothlisberger
This week he changed his Facebook profile picture to a photo of his black 'ARA San Juan' cap. Photo / Facebook, Adrian Rothlisberger

Also this week, distraught family members gathered at the naval base were reportedly informed that their loved ones had perished, probably in an underwater explosion hours after their last communication.

The explosion is believed to have happened between 100 and 1000 metres under the water and sent the submarine plummeting to more than 3000m, according to officials who spoke to relatives.

News of the miracle escape of one of the San Juan crew comes after it emerged another sailor who was supposed to be on the sub was also spared the fate of his colleagues after getting off the vessel to tend to his ill mother.


Rene Humberto Vilte was a confirmed crew member and was even initially listed as one of the missing.

But it turned out the sailor had disembarked as the submarine prepared for the trip from Usuahia to Mar del Prata after hearing that his mother had been rushed to hospital after becoming seriously ill.

Another crew member is believed to have been called up to replace him, believed to be Jorge Luis Mealla, who reportedly called his parents to tell them he had been told to reboard the doomed submarine at the last minute.

Rene's mother has since recovered and has returned home.

A friend of the sailor, Anabella, said: "He says that his mother gave him life for the second time.

"He is in shock, he can't believe what has happened and how close he came to death.

"I spoke to him on the day his photo was published among those who were on the missing submarine. I saw his name and picture on the lists, it was terrible, so distressing.

"He told me he had been on the crew, but that he had got off to see his mother."

The submariner has not commented on his escape and friends say they have been able to contact him, but yesterday he updated he posted a black ribbon on the Navy logo on his Facebook page.