US Navy sacks officers over 'preventable' crash

The US Navy has sacked two senior commanders from a warship that was involved in a fatal crash with an oil tanker near Singapore.

It cited a “loss of confidence” in the pair after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain hit a tanker on 21 August, killing 10 American sailors and injuring five others.

The ship suffered damage to its side after colliding with the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC in the early hours, but sailed under its own power and arrived at the Changi naval base in Singapore with a large hole torn in its hull.

The Pacific-based US Seventh Fleet confirmed commanding officer Alfredo J Sanchez and executive officer Jessie L Sanchez were “relieved of their duties” on Wednesday.

The USS John S McCain
US Seventh Fleet said the incident was ‘preventable’

“Both were relieved due to a loss of confidence,” it said in a statement.

The two commanders have since been reassigned to other duties in Japan.

The latest move comes after the US Navy fired the-then commander of the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, following the August crash.

Ten sailors are missing after the USS John S McCain was hit by a tanker

August: See the damage to the guided missile destroyer

The incident came after another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippines-flagged cargo ship off Japan in June, which left seven sailors dead.

Two other non-fatal incidents have also taken place this year, with the USS Antietam running aground near its base in Japan in January and the USS Lake Champlain colliding with a South Korean fishing vessel in May.

Several other officers and sailors have also been relieved of duty or reprimanded following the USS McCain crash.

he damaged USS John McCain is docked next to USS America at Changi Naval Base in Singapore
The warship managed to dock at the Changi naval base in Singapore

In its statement, the US Seventh Fleet insisted the incident was “preventable”.

It said: “While the investigation is ongoing, it is evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised poor judgement, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training programme.”

Some Navy officials have put the collision down to strains from regular extended deployments, delayed maintenance and budget constraints, including reductions in resources devoted to training.

Damage to the ship's port side is clearly visible. Pic: US Navy
Five people were injured as a result of the crash. Pic: US Navy

In the aftermath of the collision, the chief of the US Navy, Admiral John Richardson, said there was no indication the collision was intentional but an examination would include a full analysis of the vessel’s cybersecurity.

He added: “I have directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world.”

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