The commander and executive officer of the USS John S McCain were relieved of their duties Wednesday due to lost confidence after the warship and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August. The cause of the Aug. 21 collision is still under investigation but the US Navy described it as preventable. The Navy statement said Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez and the ship’s executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, were reassigned.
The crash killed 10 US sailors and injured five more. It was one of several accidents in the region that raised concern over the safety and operational effectiveness of US naval vessels. Some Navy officials have cited strains from frequent extended deployments, delayed maintenance and nearly a decade of budget constraints and reductions in resources devoted to training as factors. But the Navy statement said it also was “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 Navy fired the then-commander of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, shortly after the McCain’s crash. It followed the collision of the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship in waters off Japan in June, which killed seven sailors. In January, the USS Antietam ran aground near Yokosuka base in Japan, and in May the USS Lake Champlain had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.
McCain Cmdr. A. Sanchez, was reassigned to the headquarters of Naval Forces Japan and Cmdr. J. Sanchez was reassigned to the Ship Repair Facility at Yokosuka, home port of the 7th Fleet, the Navy said. It said Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, former commanding officer of the USS McCampbell, was named acting commanding officer of the McCain. Lt. Cmdr. Ray Ball, chief engineer of USS Antietam, is acting executive officer.