A body found at sea by Malaysian forces is not one of the 10 U.S. sailors missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker, the Navy’s 7th Fleet said Thursday, as more Marine Corps divers joined a search of the destroyer’s flooded compartments.
The remains found earlier in the week by the Malaysian navy were medically examined and will be returned to Malaysian authorities, the fleet said in a statement.
Divers have found remains in flooded compartments of the McCain, which is docked at Singapore’s naval base, but the Navy has not disclosed specifics. Five of the 10 missing sailors have been named by relatives.
Aircraft and ships from the navies of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia are searching seas east of Singapore where the collision happened early Monday and the search area continues to expand, the Navy said. More Marine Corps divers have arrived in Singapore to help with the search of the McCain’s interior, it said.
The commander of the 7th Fleet was relieved of duty Wednesday following the McCain collision and other accidents this year that raised questions about its operations in the Pacific. Seven sailors died in June when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off Japan. Two lesser-known incidents occurred earlier in the year.
The firing of Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, a three-star admiral, was a rare dismissal of a high-ranking officer for operational reasons.
Aucoin was due to retire in a few weeks, and the officer named to succeed him, Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, assumed command immediately.
Sawyer, speaking Thursday at a maritime security meeting in Bali, Indonesia, thanked regional navies for helping in the search for the missing McCain sailors.
“Often it is a brutal reminder that what we do is dangerous work in an unforgiving environment, requiring honed skills and constant vigilance,” he said. “And even with those, bad things can happen.”
Lawrence Brennan, an adjunct law professor at Fordham University and a retired Navy officer, called Aucoin’s dismissal “an unprecedented peacetime move.”
“Four incidents in a short time in an operational area is a problem,” he said, though he cautioned against rushing to assign blame.
The Navy has ordered an operational pause for its fleets worldwide to make sure all steps are being taken to ensure safe and effective operations. The Pacific Fleet will also carry out a ship-by-ship review of its vessels, looking at navigation, mechanical systems, bridge resource management and training.
The 7th Fleet said four sailors injured in the collision and taken to a Singapore hospital for treatment were released on Wednesday.