CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Singapore – After searching more than 80 hours, the U.S. Navy suspended search and rescue efforts for nine missing USS John S. McCain sailors on Thursday.
The USS John S. McCain was making its way to a port in Singapore when it collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC. The collision was reported at 5:24 a.m. Monday, east of the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s most congested shipping routes.
Ten American U.S. Navy sailors were reported missing after the collision. The divers recovered the remains of Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, from New Jersey.
U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers will continue recovery efforts inside flooded compartments in the ship for the missing sailors.
*Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, 28, from New York is not pictured.
Following the collision, the McCain sailed under her own power to Changi Naval Base in Singapore. The USS America is providing crew and berthing services to the McCain crew members and assisting with damage control efforts.
U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers started accessing the sealed compartments in the damaged area of the ship on Tuesday. Adm. Swift says bodies were discovered but it’s premature to say how many or the status of their recovery.
Additionally, the Malaysian Navy has reported locating one body during helicopter searches in the area. They are still working to recover the body and transfer them to the U.S. Navy for identification.
Two helicopters from the San Diego-based USS America Wednesday combed the area in the South China Sea for the missing sailors.
Involved in that search were the two SH-60S helicopters from the USS America, a San Diego-based amphibious assault ship. Both the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Republic of Singapore Navy are assisting in the search on the water.
The USS America, docked at the same Singapore pier as the McCain, is also providing food and shelter to sailors assigned to the damaged Navy ship.
Adm. Swift says they’re still hopeful they will find survivors.
“Until we have exhausted any potential of recovering survivors or bodies, the search and rescue efforts will continue,” he said.
Four Sailors were medically evacuated from the McCain by a Singapore Navy helicopter following the collision. They were taken to a hospital in Singapore with non-life threatening injuries. A 5th Sailor was evacuated after the ship got to port in Singapore. All five Sailors are reportedly doing well.
The McCain collision marks the fourth incident involving a US Navy warship in the Pacific this year.
On June 17, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan. That collision resulted in the deaths of seven US sailors. The Fitzgerald will be transported to the US for repairs.