TOKYO — The U.S. Navy on Thursday turned its search and rescue mission to find 10 missing sailors from the USS John S. McCain into a recovery operation, an acknowledgment that it does not expect to find any of them alive.
It also named the 10 who have been missing since the guided-missile destroyer and an oil tanker collided near Singapore before dawn on Monday.
“After more than 80 hours of multinational search efforts, the U.S. Navy suspended search and rescue efforts for missing USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) Sailors in an approximately 2,100-square mile area east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore,” the 7th Fleet, to which the McCain belongs, the Navy said in a statement Thursday.
The Navy said it has recovered the remains of one sailor, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, of New Jersey.
The Navy said it will continue search operations inside flooded compartments in the ship.
Still missing are: Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, 31, of Missouri; Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, 39, of Texas; Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26, of Maryland; Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, 21, of Ohio; Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23, of Maryland; Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, 28, of New York; Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, 26, of Connecticut; Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, 20, of Texas; and Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, 23, of Illinois.
The remains of some of the 10 sailors had been found in compartments on the damaged ship, Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of the Pacific Fleet, said Tuesday without disclosing how many bodies had been located.
The American, Singaporean and Malaysian navies had been searching an area at sea covering about 900 square nautical miles around the point where the collision occurred.
The Malaysian navy found a body during this search and handed it over to the U.S. Navy, which determined it was not one of its sailors and returned it to Malaysian authorities, the 7th Fleet said in a statement Thursday.
Five sailors were injured during the collision, and the four who needed hospital treatment were released Wednesday and have returned to their duties.
A short video posted to the McCain’s Facebook page on Wednesday showed the surviving sailors clustered together shouting “Big Bad John,” the destroyer’s nickname. The caption read “Fortune Favors the Brave” — the destroyer’s motto — with the hashtag #puttingthepiecesbacktogether.
The McCain is named for the father and grandfather of John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, both of whom served as admirals in the Navy.
An investigation has begun into how the destroyer and the oil tanker collided.
The Navy’s top admiral on Monday ordered a fleetwide review of seamanship and training in the Pacific after the McCain collision, and on Wednesday the admiral in charge of the 7th Fleet was removed from his position because of his commanders’ “loss of confidence” in his ability to lead.
The McCain collision is the fourth incident involving a U.S. Navy vessel at sea in Asia this year, and the second collision in just over two months involving a destroyer belonging to the 7th Fleet, which is based at Yokosuka in Japan.
The USS Fitzgerald collided off the coast of Japan with a much heavier container ship in June, killing seven sailors who were trapped in a berthing compartment inside the ship.
The month before, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel off the Korean Peninsula and the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo Bay in January.
The 7th Fleet is based in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, and is responsible for an area that spans 36 maritime countries and 48 million square miles in the Pacific and Indian oceans, according to the Navy.
The fleet has about 50 to 70 ships assigned to it, and about a dozen are at sea at any time. The force’s missions range from responding to natural disasters, countering North Korean threats and challenging Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, where Beijing has established new military bases.