Bodies of Missing Sailors Found Aboard Ship: US Navy

Fadzil Aziz
Kuala Lumpur
170828-MY-mccain-620.jpg A U.S. Navy diver enters the water during search efforts for sailors missing from the USS John S. McCain, Aug. 21, 2017.
Courtesy of U.S. Navy

Divers have recovered the bodies of all 10 American sailors who went missing after their warship and a giant oil tanker collided last week in the Singapore Strait, the U.S. Navy said Monday.

Their bodies were found inside flooded compartments of the USS John S. McCain, the destroyer that was involved in the collision with a Liberian-flagged merchant ship, the Alnic MC, on Aug. 21, Navy officials said in announcing an end to search-and-recovery efforts that involved Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

“U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers have now recovered the remains of all 10 USS John S. McCain sailors,” the navy’s Seventh Fleet said in the statement.

The Seventh Fleet is the largest of the U.S. Navy’s forward ­deployed fleets, with about 50 to ­70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and about 20,000 sailors, according to the Navy.

At the time of the collision, the McCain was sailing toward Singapore for a port of call. Malaysia and Singapore claim control of the waters where it occurred, and both claimed leadership of search efforts.

Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, boarded the warship after the collision and met with families of the dead sailors. On Monday, the Navy released a statement posted by Swift on Facebook.

“We will determine the causes of these incidents, we will learn from them and we will apply those lessons. What changes need to be made will be made,” Swift wrote.

The Navy suspended search-and-rescue operations Thursday as divers carried on with efforts to recover the bodies inside the ship’s flooded compartments. That same day, Malaysian Security Council Director Gen. Zulkifeli Muhammad Zin and U.S. Ambassador Zulhasnan Rafique visited the White House in Washington, where President Donald Trump thanked them for Malaysia’s help in the search efforts.

Malaysia deployed Navy ship KD Handalan to lead its search efforts with two Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) ships assisting, along with aircraft and divers. Zulkifli said search crews worked more than 83 hours, covering 2,660 nautical square miles.

“MMEA expresses a great deal of appreciation and gratitude to all the agencies involved in the four-day search and rescue,” Zulkifli said in a statement.

This was the second collision involving a U.S. warship in the region in three months. On June 17, seven sailors died when another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, and a container ship collided in the Sea of Japan.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was relieved of his duty as commander of Seventh Fleet because of a “loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the Navy said.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.