On ships far from the McCain crash, a renewed safety focus
Half a world away from two deadly U.S. Navy accidents, sailors on America’s massive USS Nimitz aircraft carrier reflect on the shipmates they knew who are gone. Their commanders want to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
The wrenching deaths of sailors, drowned this week while trapped in their bunks on the USS John S. McCain, have reverberated around the American fleet. The Navy has found the remains of two of 10 who were declared missing after the ship crashed into an oil tanker, and the search goes on for others in coastal waters off Singapore. Just in June, seven sailors died when another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, hit a container ship off Japan.
Out in the blazing Persian Gulf heat on the Nimitz’s flight deck, fighter jets line up to launch for surveillance, intelligence and bombing missions in Iraq and Syria. Up to 10 times a day, a wave of aircraft blasts into the sky to support the U.S. military’s fight against the Islamic State group in Raqqa, Syria, and Tal Afar, Iraq.
But those battle flights off the Nimitz will soon pause for a day.
Adm. John Richardson, the top U.S. Navy officer, has ordered that ships around the world stop and retrain, relearn and focus on proper procedures and safety precautions to prevent more collisions or mishaps.
“It’s important for all of us to take a knee,” said Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of the carrier strike group that includes the Nimitz and six other ships in the Persian Gulf and surrounding region. “It makes all of us appropriately ask ourselves, ‘Are we ready if it happens to us?’”
The damaged port aft hull of the USS John S. McCain is visible while docked Aug. 22 at Singapore’s Changi naval base in Singapore.