The remains of some of the sailors lost in the collision between the USS John S. McCain and the commercial tanker Alnic MC have been found by U.S. Navy divers in the flooded compartments of the damaged warship.
The collision, which took place early Monday morning, saw the Alnic MC collide with the McCain on its rear, port side, with damage extending below the waterline. The crew of the ship were able to stem the flooding and continue to port, but 10 sailors remained missing as it got underway near the East coast of Singapore. Four others were airlifted from the ship due to injuries, with one more sailor sustaining injuries that did not require medevac.
Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, declined to say how many bodies had been found thus far, but he did report that the Malaysian Navy had recovered a body at sea that may be one of the missing sailors as well.
“We have discovered other bodies during the diving on the McCain today,” Admiral Swift said at a news conference, held within sight of the damaged ship. “But it is premature to say how many or what the status of the recovery of those bodies is.”
The McCain was reportedly underway, en route to a routine stop at a port in Singapore after conducting a Freedom of Navigation, or FONOP, voyage in the South China Sea, when the collision occurred. Based on the damage to the two ships, it appears they were attempting to cross paths on perpendicular routes when they collided. Extensive flooding in the crew berth, machinery and communications rooms followed, but the Navy reports that the quick damage control efforts of the crew on board prevented the tragedy from becoming even more serious.
This incident, coupled with a similar collision in June, as well as a number of other incidents in recent months, prompted Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, to announce an “operational pause” for all 277 ships in America’s Navy, in order to review “basic seamanship, teamwork and other fundamentals.”
The USS John S. McCain is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the same class of ship as the USS Fitzgerald, which was involved in another collision with a commercial vessel only two months ago. The United States Navy recently removed the Fitzgerald’s command from duty, and disseminated a series of equal and lesser punishments to subordinate officers and enlisted sailors who were parts of the bridge and watch crews.
“Cindy and I are keeping America’s sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight – appreciate the work of search & rescue crews,” Senator John McCain said of the incident. Although a Navy veteran and former POW himself, it’s McCain’s father and grandfather the ship’s namesake honors.
The search for the missing sailors continues, with support coming from vessels hailing from five different nations and aircraft launched by the U.S. military, Indonesia and Australia, though at this point it is becoming increasingly unlikely that any of them will be found alive.
“The focus of the United States Pacific Fleet is our 10 missing sailors and their families,” Admiral Swift said. “We are always hopeful there are survivors.”
Images courtesy of the U.S. Navy