SINGAPORE – The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet says a number of remains of Navy sailors were found in a compartment of the USS John McCain, a day after the warship’s collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters left 10 sailors missing.
Adm. Scott Swift also said at a news conference in Singapore on Tuesday that Malaysian officials have found one body that has not yet been identified.
The focus of the search for 10 U.S. sailors missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters shifted Tuesday to the damaged destroyer’s flooded compartments.
The collision on Monday tore a gaping hole in the McCain’s left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms. Five sailors were injured.
The White House expressed “great sadness” after the remains were found; President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that “we pray for our fallen heroes” who died serving their country aboard the warship.
The White House also expressed gratitude for the rescue and recovery efforts by the militaries of Malaysia and Singapore, and noting Defence Department plans to investigate the incident.
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The USS John S. McCain docked at Singapore’s naval base with “significant damage” to its hull after an early morning collision with an oil tanker.
The collision east of Singapore between the guided-missile destroyer and the 183-meter (600-foot) Alnic MC was the second involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th fleet in the Pacific in two months.
Vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia searched for the missing sailors. Four sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth injured sailor did not require further medical attention.
The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.
The Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement that damage to the McCain’s hull flooded adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it said.
The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, from the collision that happened at 5:24 a.m. but headed to port under its own power.
A photo tweeted by Malaysia’s navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin showed a gaping hole in the McCain’s side near the waterline. Janes, a defence industry publication, estimated the hull rupture was 3 metres (10 feet) wide.
One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting surgery for an arm injury.
He told The Associated Press in a message that he couldn’t say what happened: “I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure.”
The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the front of the ship some 7 metres (23 feet) above its waterline. There were no reports of a chemical or oil spill.
Singapore sent tugboats and naval and coast guard vessels to search for the missing sailors and Indonesia said it sent two warships. Malaysia said two ships as well as aircraft from its navy and air force were helping with the search, and the USS America deployed Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters.
There was no immediate explanation for the collision, and the Navy said an investigation would be conducted. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.
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The collision was the second involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.
The Fitzgerald’s captain was relieved of command and other sailors were being punished after the Navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision, the Navy announced last week. An investigation into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, but enough details were known to take those actions, the Navy said.
President Donald Trump has expressed concern for the McCain’s crew.
Trump returned to Washington on Sunday night from his New Jersey golf club. When reporters shouted questions to him about the McCain, he responded, “That’s too bad.”
About two hours later, Trump tweeted that “thoughts and prayers” are with the McCain’s sailors as search and rescue efforts continue.
The 154-meter (505-foot) destroyer is named after U.S. Sen. John McCain’s father and grandfather, who were both U.S. admirals. It’s based at the 7th Fleet’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the Navy’s website.
McCain said on Twitter that he and his wife, Cindy, are “keeping America’s sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight – appreciate the work of search & rescue crews.”
Though Liberian flagged, the Alnic is owned by a Greece-based shipping company Stealth Maritime Corporation S.A. through a subsidiary registered in the Marshall Islands.