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USS John S. McCain: Remains Found of Some U.S. Sailors Missing in Warship Crash

by Eoghan Macguire, Courtney Kube and Kate Brannelly /  / Updated 
Image: USS John S. McCain
Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with a hole on its left portside after a collision with oil tanker, outside Changi naval base in SingaporeRoslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images

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The remains of “some” American sailors have been found in sealed compartments aboard the USS John S. McCain, Adm. Scott Swift of the U.S. Pacific Command said Tuesday.

Swift said the Malaysian Navy, which has been involved in the search, has also located “potential” remains and they are working to confirm and identify those discovered.

The Navy vessel suffered significant damage to its hull when it was hit by the Alnic MC, a 30,000-ton chemical and oil tanker sailing under the Liberian flag.

Ten sailors have been missing since the incident which occurred Monday. Swift did not identify who or how many people the remains belonged to.

"Its premature to say how many and what the status recovery of those bodies is," he told reporters.

Video footage of the USS John S. McCain released Monday showed a gaping hole in the vessel where the impact occurred.

The collision is the fourth in a year involving a U.S. Navy vessel.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced Monday that Navy operations would be paused around the world and a full safety review ordered.

The USS John S. McCain arrived at Changi Naval Base Monday where damage control efforts halted further flooding.

The warship was on its way to a routine port visit in Singapore when the collision occurred.

Navy Divers accessed sealed compartments located in damaged parts of the ship and conducted assessments of the hull and flooded areas, a statement from the U.S. Navy said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, ships from the Malaysian and Singaporean navies continued to provide search and rescue assistance alongside U.S. helicopters and vessels near the site of the crash the statement added.

Yet quite how the Navy vessel, which is 505 feet in length, collided with the 600-foot Alnic MC remains unclear.

Swift offered no further details on the cause of the crash but said the search and recovery mission continued and that a thorough investigation would be carried out.

Those thoughts were echoed earlier Tuesday by Admiral Harry B. Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the Navy was “working with our friends in Singapore and other nations in the region to help in the search and rescue effort.”

Harris added that the operational suspension was important due to “a number of unfortunate incidents in the navy recently.”

On June 17, the USS Fitzgerald crashed into a Japanese merchant ship, killing seven sailors. The ship's three senior officers were relieved of their duties after an investigation found the sailors responsible for watching the bridge "lost situational awareness" and that "serious mistakes were made by the crew."

On May 9, meanwhile, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat off the Korean peninsula. And on August 19 last year, the USS Louisiana collided with the USNS Eagleview, a Navy support vessel, off the coast of Washington State. No one was injured in either incident.

Harris said the safety review would allow "commanding officers to take a pause, to take a look at his or her procedures, and look at the readiness of their crews to do the difficult job of sailing at sea.”

He also added that it would be sequenced in such a way that the U.S. Navy "will maintain its primary responsibility of defending our homeland and the homelands of our allies."

CORRECTION (7:45 a.m., Aug. 22): An earlier version of this article misstated the registry of the tanker that collided with the USS John McCain. It flies under the flag of Liberia, not Libya.

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