U.S. Navy sacks two officers for fatal ship collision

Huang Panyue

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Navy fired two commanding officers of the USS John S. McCain on Wednesday, nearly two months after the warship's collision with a tanker off Singapore left 10 sailors dead.

The guided-missile destroyer's commanding officer Alfredo J. Sanchez and executive officer Jessie L. Sanchez were relieved of their duties by Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, commander of the Pacific-based U.S. Seventh Fleet, according to a statement.

Both officers were relieved "due to a loss of confidence" and assigned to other duties in Japan, it said.

USS John S. McCain was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel in August near Singapore. The incident tore a huge hole in the destroyer's hull, while claiming lives of 10 sailors and injuring five others.

"While the investigation is ongoing, it is evident the collision was preventable," the statement stressed.

"The commanding officers exercised poor judgement, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship's training program," it added.

The fatal incident was among several collisions involving U.S. Navy vessels over the past year or so.

In the other deadly collision in June, seven sailors were killed when guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged container ship collided off the coast of Japan.

Following the collisions, Navy officials removed Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin as head of the Seventh Fleet and relieved several other senior officers from their duties as part of a purge in the fleet's leadership.

Last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report that the Navy has "increased deployment lengths, shortened training periods, and reduced or deferred maintenance to meet high operational demands, which has resulted in declining ship conditions and a worsening trend in overall readiness."

Headquartered in Yokosuka of Japan, the Seventh Fleet, as the largest of the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed fleets, operates roughly 50 to 70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.


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