Two officers lose jobs after fatal USS McCain collision

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WASHINGTON — The two officers in charge of the destroyer USS John S. McCain have been relieved of duty after a deadly accident earlier this year, the US Navy said in a statement Tuesday.

The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship off Singapore on August 21, leaving 10 US sailors dead and five more injured. The accident left a large highly visible hole in the US ship.

The McCain’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, and executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, were “relieved due to a loss of confidence,” according to statement from the US 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, the ship’s home port.

“While the investigation is ongoing, it is evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training program,” the statement said.

Both officers were assigned to other duties in Japan.

The McCain accident was the fourth involving a US warship in the Pacific this year.

In June, the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off Japan, killing seven US sailors.

In May, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain was struck by a South Korean fishing boat off the Korean Peninsula.

And in late January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo Bay, damaging its propellers.

The accidents prompted the dismissal of the Navy’s 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, as well as multiple reviews of the way the Navy trains, maintains and deploys its fleet.

US Government Accountability Office data obtained by CNN in September found that both the McCain and Fitzgerald had lengthy records of failing to fulfill key training requirements.

Senior Navy officials told Congress that the service is committed to getting to the root of the issues that have contributed to the spate of collisions.

“We ask the sailors to do an awful lot … and perhaps we’ve asked them to do too much,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran told the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing on the collisions in September. “That’s what the comprehensive review will look at.”

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer told lawmakers a failure of leadership as well as a lack of resources contributed to the collisions.

“We have a problem in the Navy and we are going to fix it,” Spencer said.

The McCain was loaded onto a heavy lift transport ship off Singapore last weekend and is being taken to Yokosuka for repairs, the Navy said.

The Fitzgerald, meanwhile, will be taken in a similar manner to the US for repairs.

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