Asia Pacific

Divers find remains of all sailors missing in USS McCain collision

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

The U.S. Navy said Monday that it had recovered the remains of all 10 sailors missing from the collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker near Singapore last week.

The U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based 7th Fleet said in a statement that navy and marine corps divers had recovered the remains. The divers had been searching flooded compartments in the damaged destroyer since it arrived at a Singapore naval base in the city-state.

The crash of the McCain and the deaths of 10 sailors have shaken the U.S. Navy to its core. It came less than three months after the destroyer USS Fitzgerald’s June 17 collision with a Philippine-flagged freighter in the middle of the night off the Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo. Seven U.S. sailors were killed in that accident.

The U.S. Navy on Wednesday relieved the commander of the 7th Fleet after the two fatal collisions and two other incidents involving the fleet’s vessels.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the fleet, was removed “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the navy said. He was replaced with Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, who arrived in Yokosuka on Friday.

The McCain, an Aegis-equipped destroyer, collided with the Alnic MC tanker on Aug. 21 as the warship was approaching Singapore for a routine port call. The collision ripped a gaping hole near its waterline, flooding compartments that included a crew sleeping area.

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson suggested the spate of incidents involving the Pacific Fleet — including the Fitzgerald collision, which he called “very similar” to the McCain accident — had prompted him to also announce a comprehensive review that would examine the training of U.S. forces deployed to Japan.

The U.S. Navy has yet to release an explanation for the cause of the collision between the approximately 8,900-ton McCain and the 30,000-ton Alnic, a Liberian-flagged tanker that transports oil and chemicals.