Remains belonging to some of the 10 missing sailors aboard the USS John S. McCain have been discovered, the commander of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific said Tuesday.
Divers discovered the bodies in a flooded compartment of the destroyer, which collided with an oil tanker on Monday on its way to Singapore.
The tanker ripped a large hole in the rear left side of the ship, which is based in Yokosuka, Japan.
“It’s premature to say how many and what the status of those bodies is,” Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, told reporters aboard the McCain. “We’re always hopeful that there are survivors as our efforts have continued.”
Search for 10 missing sailors after USS John McCain collision
U.S., Malaysian and Singapore diving crews have been combing the ship in search of remains or survivors.
The Malaysian Navy found one body, which is being transferred over to U.S. custody, Swift said.
Other bodies were found Tuesday, he said but declined to say where they were found.
It’s unclear when those remains might be identified as loved ones are left to ponder the missings’ fate.
Ten sailors missing after USS John S. McCain collides with vessel
April Brandon of Milford, Mich., said her son, Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth Smith, was among the missing but wasn’t given much information when contacted by the Navy on Monday.
“He’s tough,” Brandon told the Detroit Free Press of her 22-year-old son Tuesday. “I have hope.”
Swift, speaking in Singapore on Tuesday, said “we owe it to the sailors that man the 7th Fleet and their families to answer the questions that flow from the uncertainty of what happened.”
Five crew members were also wounded during the collision, four of whom were medevacked to a hospital, the admiral said.
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The remaining wounded service member was taken off the destroyer when it arrived at Changi Naval Base in Singapore.
Swift toured the McCain on Tuesday to inspect the damage to the 505-foot warship, which is part of the Navy’s 7th Fleet.
He said early investigations don’t show that a cyber attack might’ve caused the ship to collide with the Alnic MC tanker, but it hasn’t been ruled out.
The incident happened about 4-1/2 miles off Malaysia’s coast as the guided-missile destroyer made its way through the heavily trafficked Singapore Strait.
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This was the fourth accident involving a U.S. Navy vessel in the Pacific this year, Swift noted, and the second in the last two months.
Seven sailors died in mid-June aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan.
The USS Antietam ran aground near Yokosuka in January and the USS Lake Champlain — part of the Navy’s 3rd Fleet — bumped into a South Korean fishing vessel in May.
“One tragedy like this is one too many,” Swift said Tuesday. “And while each of these four events is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation.”
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In wake of the collision, Adm. John Richardson, head of naval operations, ordered a pause in the 7th Fleet’s operation to review immediate safety procedures.
He also ordered a one-day “operational pause,” or stand down, across the Navy. The Pacific-based fleet will conduct that pause by Aug. 28, Swift said Tuesday.
Richardson has also ordered a broader safety review for the 7th Fleet to examine issues such as personnel, equipment and navigation.
Swift defended the sailors of the fleet, as well as the McCain crew who almost immediately had the destroyer operational after the collision as water poured flooded it.
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“Make no mistake our sailors on these ships are doing critical work at sea,” Swift said. “And for more than 70 years, the U.S. Navy has helped guarantee the security and stability of the western Pacific.”
With News Wire Services
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