Three sailors were killed outright and a fourth, Sergei Preminin, an enlisted seaman, died after successfully securing the nuclear reactor by hand, trapped in the engine compartment. Igor Britanov, the submarine's captain, was ordered to have the ship towed back to her home port, some 7000 kilometers away, while keeping the crew on board. After subsequent poison gas leaks into the final aft compartments and against orders, Britanov ordered the crew to evacuate onto the towing ship. He remained aboard until he also was forced to evacuate the sinking vessel. For disobeying his orders, he was imprisoned in Moscow until freed by a new Soviet administration.
The submarine was rumored to have been scuttled by the captain when attempts to tow it failed. However, both American and Russian governments deny this. The captain of the K-219 will not comment on the ultimate demise of his submarine. Preminin was posthumously awarded the Red Star for his bravery.