The San Diego-based USS America continued Tuesday to help in the search for 10 sailors missing since the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in the South China Sea, though Navy officials said the remains of at least some of those sailors were found in sealed compartments aboard the damaged ship.
The 505-foot McCain collided early Monday with a 600-foot merchant ship in the busy South China Sea, causing “significant damage” to the hull on the left rear side of the American guided-missile destroyer. Five sailors were injured in the crash, none of them seriously, and 10 went missing.
But Navy and Marine Corps divers found “some of the 10 missing sailors” earlier Tuesday inside sealed compartments aboard the ship, said Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of the Pacific Fleet.
The Royal Malaysian Navy also reported the discovery of potential remains of another missing McCain sailor, Swift said. Those potential remains were located while the ship was providing search and rescue assistance east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.
That’s the same area where two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters from the USS America, the San Diego-based amphibious assault ship, continued Tuesday to search for the missing sailors.
“Until we have exhausted any potential of recovering survivors or bodies, the search and rescue efforts will continue,” said Swift, the commander of the Pacific Fleet.
According to the Navy, the America is also docked at the same pier as the McCain and is providing extra food and shelter for sailors assigned to the damaged ship.
“While in Singapore, America will provide messing and berthing services to McCain crew members and support damage control efforts on board,” the Navy said Monday. “America will also support ongoing searches for 10 missing sailors.”
On Monday, the Navy announced it was ordering an “operational pause” for all fleets around the world as it conducts a comprehensive review of recent collisions involving Navy ships.
A similar collision in June involving the USS Fitzgerald killed seven sailors, including Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula. Both men were posthumously promoted earlier this month.
An investigation into that collision resulted in the ship’s top commanders being relieved of duty, but Navy officials are launching a wider- ranging review to examine all of its operations, especially in the Pacific.
“This trend demands more forceful action,” Adm. John Richardson, The Chirf of Naval Operations, said Monday. “As such, I’ve directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world. In addition to that operational pause, I’ve directed a comprehensive review to get at the contributing factors – – the root causes — of these incidents.”
The review will be conducted on “a very tight timeline” by a “broad and diverse” team of military and non-military authorities, Richardson said.
—City News Service
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