Remains found in search for Navy sailors missing after U.S. destroyer collision

In this Aug. 21, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, tugboats from Singapore assist the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) as it steers towards Changi Naval Base, Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy via AP)

BEIJING, China (CBS) — The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Tuesday that divers had located bodies inside the stricken USS John S. McCain, a day after that American warship collided with a merchant vessel near the busy shipping lanes of the Strait of Malacca.

Admiral Scott Swift did not say how many bodies had been found inside the ship or where there were located in the vessel, but added that Malaysian Navy vessels had also discovered a body, and that work to confirm that discovery, and to remove and identify the remains found inside the McCain, was continuing.

Swift said the search for the 10 American sailors left missing after Monday’s collision remained the focus of the Navy’s efforts.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen damaged after a collision in Singapore waters on Mon., August 21, 2017. (REUTERS via CBS)

On Monday, hours after the U.S. Navy is temporarily suspending all ship operations worldwide after two collisions this summer between destroyers and merchant vessels.

A collision early on Monday with an oil tanker tore a large hole in the side of the USS John S. McCain. U.S. Marine Corps. and Navy divers joined the search effort on Tuesday, accessing flooded compartments of the stricken ship, which is now docked at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base.

“Equipped with surface supplied air rigs, divers will access sealed compartments located in damaged parts of the ship,” the Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement. “Additionally, they will conduct damage assessments of the hull and flooded areas.”

As CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports, the Navy is calling it an “operational pause.” It will give ship commanders a chance to review basic seamanship and teamwork after a series of incidents in the Pacific which have called into question the level of training on U.S. Naval vessels.

The fear is that the gaping hole in the side of yet another U.S. warship could be a sign of a bigger problem in the Pacific. The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain suffered extensive damage when it collided on Monday with an oil and chemical tanker while en route for a routine port visit in Singapore.

Navy officials have not confirmed details from an initial investigation which pointed to a possible loss of steering, but they’ve said there were no obvious signs of sabotage or a cyberattack.

Adm. Swift reiterated on Tuesday that there had been no indications of a cyberattack and he said any negligence on the part of the U.S. Navy crew aboard the McCain, or the other vessel involved, would be a “determination of the investigation” which was ongoing.

The chief of Naval operations officially called for all U.S. Navy ships worldwide to halt operations and review basic training in a video posted online.

“I’ve directed a more comprehensive review to ensure we get at the contributing factors… the root causes of these incidents,” Adm. John Richardson said.

This combination of file photos show U.S. Navy ships the USS Antietam, top left; the USS Lake Champlain, top right; the USS Fitzgerald, bottom left; and the USS John S. McCain. The commander of U.S. naval operations has ordered a comprehensive review to get to root causes after the collision this week between a Navy destroyer and an oil tanker near Singapore. The crash on Aug. 21, 2017, is the latest “in a series of incidents in the Pacific theater,” Adm. John Richardson said in a video statement. Navy ships have been in at least four accidents in the Pacific this year. (U.S. Navy via AP, AP Photos/File)

Just two months ago, another ship from the 7th fleet, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan. Seven Navy sailors died in that incident.

On Friday, the Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was relieved of his duties and several other sailors were punished — a sign that mistakes were made on the U.S. warship.

“It does show there’s still some kind of systemic issues on the deck,” retired Army Maj. Mike Lyons tells CBS News. “Whether or not there are people that are qualified, whether they are certified or they are using all of the things at their disposal to make sure this does not happen again.”

There have now been four incidents this year involving ships from the 7th fleet. In May, a guided missile cruiser collided with a South Korean fishing vessel, and in January another cruiser ran aground in Tokyo Bay.

“I think every commander will look at their specific units, evaluate the culture, evaluate the climates, and make sure and make changes when they feel that, in order to make that unit better,” Lyons said.

China is taking advantage of these incidents with U.S. Navy ships. An editorial in the state-owned China Daily bluntly said on Tuesday that, “the U.S. Navy is becoming a dangerous obstacle in Asian waters” and “posing a threat to navigation.”

That rhetoric stems from China’s stern opposition to the U.S. Navy sailing through disputed waters that China claims as part of its territory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s