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US Navy Commander Dismissed After Accidents in the Pacific

FILE - In this June 18, 2017, file photo, U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, Commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, speaks during a press conference, with damaged USS Fitzgerald as background at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo. U.S. official
U.S. Navy Commander Dismissed After Accidents in Pacific
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The U.S. Navy has dismissed the commander of the 7th Fleet, which is based in Japan.

A series of Navy ship accidents raised concerns about Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin's ability to command operations in the Pacific. Aucoin took command of the 7th Fleet in September 2015 and was expected to retire in a few weeks.

A statement from the Navy said Rear Admiral Phillip Sawyer will replace Aucoin. Sawyer, who had already been named as Aucoin’s successor, will take command immediately.

Accidents at sea

There have been four Navy accidents in the Pacific since late January, including two collisions that left sailors dead and missing.

Admiral Scott Swift is the commander of the US Pacific Fleet. “While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Swift said earlier.

Most recently, on Monday the Navy ship USS John S. McCain collided with a ship carrying oil near Singapore. The crash injured five sailors and left ten others missing.

Admiral Swift spoke on Tuesday at a news conference in Singapore, where the McCain is now located.

Swift said Navy divers had found remains of some of the missing sailors in a flooded part of the ship. He also said Malaysian divers, who were helping in the search, had found a body, but it had not been identified yet.

The 7th Fleet said in a statement Wednesday that Navy and Marine Corps divers are continuing to search the McCain for missing sailors. The statement also said the search is growing to include a greater area “as time goes on.”

According to the government of Singapore, the search area has more than doubled. It now includes about 5,500 square kilometers. Airplanes and ships from the U.S., Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia are all participating in the search.

Identifying the missing

At least three of the ten missing sailors have been identified by relatives.

Crew member Logan Palmer, from the Decatur, Illinois area, was reportedly identified by his mother.

April Brandon in Michigan said the military informed her that her son, Ken Smith, is also missing. Smith’s father, stepmother and grandfather served in the Navy. Brandon said, “His father and I couldn’t be prouder of our son.”

The family of Jacob Drake of Ohio was also told he was missing, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Drake had been engaged to be married to Megan Partlow. She told The Associated Press that she had last communicated with Drake on Sunday.

The collision happened early in the day in a busy shipping area near Singapore. It created a large hole in the McCain’s left rear hull.

The cause of the collision has not been determined. The Navy previously said there was no evidence it was intentional, or that it was a result of sabotage or cyberintrusion.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Ken Moritsugu originally wrote this story for the Associated Press. Phil Dierking adapted this story for VOA Learning English.Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

Do you think the captain of a ship should be dismissed after a crash? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

successor – n. a person who has a job, position, or title after someone else

collision n. an instance of one moving object or person striking against another

uniqueadj. used to say that something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else

isolationn. apart from others

proud adj. feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one's own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated.

hull n. the main body of a ship or other vessel

cyberintrusion n. breaking into a computer system