On ships far from the McCain crash, a re­newed safety fo­cus

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NATION | WORLD - BY LOLITA C. BALDOR

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?’”

[AP PHOTO]

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.

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