Navy Fires Admiral After Second Fatal Collision at Sea

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift talks during an interview with journalists Friday, July 17, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The new U.S. commander of the Pacific Fleet has assured allies that American forces are well-equipped and ready to respond to any contingency in the South China Sea, where long-seething …
AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
KRISTINA WONG

The Navy has fired its fleet commander in charge of the East Asia region after a second fatal collision at sea in just over two months.

“Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, today relieved the commander of Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the Navy said in a statement.

Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer has been nominated and confirmed for the position and will assume command immediately, the Navy said.

The firing comes after some remains of ten sailors missing were found aboard the USS John S. McCain, which had collided with a Liberian-flagged oil tanker near Singapore on Monday morning local time.

The collision had caused flooding in areas where sailors sleep, known as the berthing. Search and rescue efforts are continuing.

This was the second time a U.S. destroyer had fatally collided with a merchant vessel in the East Asia region, which has high commercial traffic.

In June, the USS Fitzgerald had collided with a Philippines-flagged container ship, killing seven U.S. sailors.

There had been other accidents in the region, though not fatal. In May, the USS Lake Champlain hit a South Korean fishing boat and, in January, the USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Japan.

This week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Richardson ordered an “operational pause” of its fleets worldwide and a review of whether there were deeper problems causing at sea collisions.

Some cybersecurity experts have speculated cyber sabotage may be behind the accidents, but the Navy has said there is no evidence to indicate that.

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