(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Navy has relieved the USS John S. McCain’s top two officers for a “loss of confidence” following the deadly collision in August that killed 10 sailors.
While the investigation into the collision continues, a Navy statement said it is “evident the collision was preventable.”
“The commanding officer, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, and executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain were relieved of their duties by Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, Seventh Fleet, on Oct. 11,” said a statement from the Navy’s Seventh Fleet. “Both were relieved due to a loss of confidence.”
On August 21, the destroyer collided with the oil freighter Alnic MC in a busy shipping lane near Singapore. The collision claimed the lives of 10 sailors and injured five others.
“While the investigation is ongoing, it is evident the collision was preventable,” said the statement. “The commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training program.”
Navy officials have said that prior to the collision, the destroyer experienced a loss of steering control. It is unclear whether that is what led to the collision with the merchant vessel, because sailors are trained to compensate with such a steering failure.
The McCain’s collision was the second deadly Navy collision in two months after the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, killing seven sailors aboard. Following that collision, the ship’s commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor were also relieved of their duties for a similar loss of confidence.
In late August, the collisions led to the removal of Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin as the head of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
The deadly collisions also triggered a Navy-wide review of ship operations ordered by Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations. The results of that comprehensive review are expected to be announced in a few weeks.
Cmdr. Sanchez was reassigned to commander, Naval Forces Japan, and Cmdr. Sanchez was reassigned to Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka.
Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, former commanding officer of USS McCampbell, assumed duties as acting commanding officer. Lt. Cmdr. Ray Ball, chief engineer of USS Antietam, will assume duties as acting executive officer.
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