Search for Missing USS John S. McCain Sailors Expanded
The U.S. Navy is continuing its search for the bodies of ten sailors missing since the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore on Monday.
U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers continued to search the ship, moored at the Changi Naval Base, the lower decks and compartments of which were flooded during the collision.
At sea, the search was focused on an area east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore but is now expanding to a larger area, the Navy said in a statement.
The Navy has ordered an investigation into the crash and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin was dismissed from his role “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” a statement from the Navy published on Tuesday read.
The 7th Fleet—the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet—includes the USS John S. McCain among its 50-70 ships and submarines as well as 140 aircraft and 20,000 sailors. It has been under the command of Aucoin, a 3-Star Navy Flag officer, since 2015 and he was due to retire within weeks.
Aucoin will be replaced by Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer with immediate effect.
Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Scott Swift also announced on Tuesday that the remains of an unspecified number of the sailors had been discovered within the ship.
The Royal Malaysian Navy, which is carrying out the search alongside the Singaporean authorities, also found a body at sea which the Navy is seeking to identify.
The collision of the USS John S. McCain with the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC tanker on Monday resulted in ten soldiers missing and five injured, four of whom required hospital treatment. The ship suffered damages to the hull resulting in flooding of the crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms.
It was the fourth accident involving a U.S. warship in the Pacific since the beginning of the year, and the second one involving the injury of the personnel, CNN reported. In June, seven sailors died after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan. An internal navy probe found the collision was “avoidable” and led to the dismissal of the vessel’s leadership last week.
With the latest incident, the Navy has now temporarily lost two of their main destroyers in the Pacific. Admiral John Richardson, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations, also ordered a rare operation pause, he told the press on Monday, without giving further details.
Retired Admiral James Stavridis, who is currently the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Boston’s Tufts University, commented on Twitter the incident calls for soul-searching within the U.S. Navy. “It’s in many ways the reflection of a kind of exhaustion,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday, referencing the reduction in numbers that have affected the fleet in the past decade.