Navy removes head of 7th Fleet
Action follows deadly crash of USS John S. McCain
The U.S. Navy dismissed Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin as commander of the 7th Fleet on Wednesday, following the deadly collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker off Malaysia. It was the fourth accident involving a U.S. warship this year and the second fatal collision.
Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, dismissed Aucoin “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer will assume command of the 7th Fleet immediately, officials said.
Aucoin had been expected to retire this year, but his superiors decided to push up his departure date due to concerns over his leadership skills, The New York Times reported. Aucoin has commanded the Japan-based fleet since September 2015.
Navy and Marine Corps divers on Tuesday located the remains of some of the 10 sailors missing from the USS John S. McCain following Sunday’s crash.
The divers were continuing to search the ship for more of the missing sailors Wednesday, with more divers scheduled to join the effort on Thursday, the Navy said.
The Royal Malaysian Navy discovered the potential remains of one of the missing sailors while searching the area east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore where the collision occurred. The remains were transferred to the U.S. military and identification efforts were underway, the U.S. Navy said.
It said the search area at sea will be expanded.
The McCain, a guided missile destroyer, was about five miles off the coast of Malaysia and headed for routine port visit to Singapore when it collided with the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC, an oil and chemical tanker. The Navy said the warship suffered “significant damage” to its hull, flooding crew berths, machinery and communications rooms.
Five U.S. sailors were injured in the crash. Swift said four were immediately flown by Singapore navy helicopters to a Singapore hospital, and the fifth was hospitalized when the ship reached Singapore. The McCain remains docked in Singapore for repairs.
Swift said the investigation into the cause was continuing.