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Nations Search For 10 Missing After US Destroyer Collision

The USS John S. McCain guided-missile destroyer, as seen in this file photo, is reportedly tracking the North Korean ship, Kang Nam off the coast of China.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Todd Frantom
The USS John S. McCain guided-missile destroyer, as seen in this file photo, is reportedly tracking the North Korean ship, Kang Nam off the coast of China.
Nations Search For 10 Missing After US Destroyer Collision
Nations Search For 10 Missing After US Destroyer Collision GUEST:Steve Walsh, military reporter, KPBS News

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. The Navy has suffered a another accident at the end this time, the Navy says it wants to get to the bottom of what is happening. We will examine the process in which we train and certify our forces that are deployed in Japan to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make them ready for operations. That was John Richardson, the chief of naval operation. USSS John S McCain collided with an oil tanker East of Singapore. The search is underway for 10 sailors missing after the accident. Two months ago, seven sailors died in a collision involving the U.S. S Fitzgerald off Japan. Joining me is Steve Walsh. Welcome. Hello. How is the Defense Department reacting ? The search is underway for the 10 American sailors who went missing after the collision with the oil tanker. We have heard in part the naval officer, Admiral Richardson is calling for a fleet wide operational pause to take a look at exactly what was the cause of this accident and the other accidents we have seen, including the Fitzgerald who saw a total of four accidents in Asian waters in the last years. One accident lost seven sailors in June after a collision near Japan. What is the fallout from the accident? The Navy issued a report were they relieved the senior officers of their duty. This speaks to the operational cause. What they found in the case of the Fitzgerald is that the crew reacted heroically after the accident occurred, including going through amazing efforts to save the captain of the ship. They also cited things such as poor seamanship and lack of leadership on the part of the leadership of the Fitzgerald which leads to questions of exactly -- this is what Admiral Richardson was to do, he wants to find out exactly what is happening in the Pacific. What, if anything is the significance of these accident happening two ships in the fleet? That is what they are trying to find out. They are doing a pause to get down to the root cross. Things they are looking for is the process by which they trained certified forces deployed to Japan and they are looking at the tempo. There is high-level operations happening in the South China Sea. There has been clashes with China. Of course, Korea. You said the pause will be per 24 hours. How will that affect Navy operations and Sampras is -- San Diego? We do not know much about it. There was a 24 hour pause that will not happen all at once. They will not bring all the carriers back to San Diego for 24 hours. This will be the done at the discretion of commanders. It will take several weeks for this to actually play out. What Admiral Richardson wants to do, he wants the commanders to confer with top leadership in the Navy. I have been speaking with Steve Walsh. Thank you. Thank you.

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. The Navy has suffered a another accident at the end this time, the Navy says it wants to get to the bottom of what is happening. We will examine the process in which we train and certify our forces that are deployed in Japan to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make them ready for operations. That was John Richardson, the chief of naval operation. USSS John S McCain collided with an oil tanker East of Singapore. The search is underway for 10 sailors missing after the accident. Two months ago, seven sailors died in a collision involving the U.S. S Fitzgerald off Japan. Joining me is Steve Walsh. Welcome. Hello. How is the Defense Department reacting ? The search is underway for the 10 American sailors who went missing after the collision with the oil tanker. We have heard in part the naval officer, Admiral Richardson is calling for a fleet wide operational pause to take a look at exactly what was the cause of this accident and the other accidents we have seen, including the Fitzgerald who saw a total of four accidents in Asian waters in the last years. One accident lost seven sailors in June after a collision near Japan. What is the fallout from the accident? The Navy issued a report were they relieved the senior officers of their duty. This speaks to the operational cause. What they found in the case of the Fitzgerald is that the crew reacted heroically after the accident occurred, including going through amazing efforts to save the captain of the ship. They also cited things such as poor seamanship and lack of leadership on the part of the leadership of the Fitzgerald which leads to questions of exactly -- this is what Admiral Richardson was to do, he wants to find out exactly what is happening in the Pacific. What, if anything is the significance of these accident happening two ships in the fleet? That is what they are trying to find out. They are doing a pause to get down to the root cross. Things they are looking for is the process by which they trained certified forces deployed to Japan and they are looking at the tempo. There is high-level operations happening in the South China Sea. There has been clashes with China. Of course, Korea. You said the pause will be per 24 hours. How will that affect Navy operations and Sampras is -- San Diego? We do not know much about it. There was a 24 hour pause that will not happen all at once. They will not bring all the carriers back to San Diego for 24 hours. This will be the done at the discretion of commanders. It will take several weeks for this to actually play out. What Admiral Richardson wants to do, he wants the commanders to confer with top leadership in the Navy. I have been speaking with Steve Walsh. Thank you. Thank you.

The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

It was the second major collision in the past few months involving the Navy's 7th Fleet. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

RELATED: New Report Details Ship Collision That Killed Two San Diego Sailors

Vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia were searching for the missing sailors. Four other sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth was taken to the hospital by ambulance after the destroyer arrived in Singapore under its own power, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said.

"It is the second such incident in a very short period of time — inside of three months — and very similar as well," Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, told reporters at the Pentagon. "It is the last of a series of incidents in the Pacific fleet in particular and that gives great cause for concern that there is something out there we are not getting at."

Richardson ordered a pause in operations for the next couple of days to allow fleet commanders to get together with leaders, sailors and command officials and identify any immediate steps that need to be taken to ensure safety.

A broader U.S. Navy review will look at the 7th Fleet's performance, including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers. Richardson said the review will be conducted with the help of the Navy's office of the inspector general, the safety center and private companies that make equipment used by sailors.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world's busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

Richardson was asked whether the collision was intentional on either side or was the result of cyber sabotage. He said there was no indication that the collision was intentional and said cyber issues would be explored just as they were during the probe of the USS Fitzgerald collision. Later, Richardson tweeted that that there were no indications of cyber intrusion or sabotage, but that the review will consider all possibilities.

RELATED: How Could The Navy Destroyer Collision Happen?

The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea. The collision east of Singapore between the 154-meter (505-foot) destroyer guided missile destroyer and the 183-meter (600-foot) Alnic MC ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer's hull.

The Navy's 7th Fleet said "significant damage" to the McCain's hull resulted in the flooding of adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it said.

The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, in the 5:24 a.m. collision about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometers) from Malaysia's coast but was able to sail on to Singapore's naval base. Malaysia's Maritime Enforcement Agency said the area is at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the busy Singapore Strait.

A photo tweeted by Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin showed a large rupture in the McCain's side near the waterline. Janes, a defense industry publication, estimated the hull breach was 3 meters (10 feet) wide.

Another U.S. naval vessel, the amphibious assault ship USS America, arrived in Singapore and deployed Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters. It was helping with damage control on the McCain and with the search for the missing sailors.

RELATED: USS Fitzgerald Leaders Punished, Crew Is Praised After Collision With Cargo Ship

One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting surgery for an arm injury. He told The Associated Press in a message that he couldn't say what happened. "I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure."

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the starboard, or right, side at the front of the ship some 7 meters (23 feet) above its waterline. The ship had a partial load of fuel oil, according to the Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., but there were no reports of a spill.

Several safety violations were recorded for the oil tanker at its last port inspection in July, one fire safety deficiency and two safety-of-navigation problems. The official database for ports in Asia doesn't go into details and the problems apparently were not serious enough for the Liberian-flagged vessel to be detained by the port authority.

In the June collision, the Fitzgerald's captain was relieved of his command and other sailors were being punished after the Navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision. An investigation into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, but enough details were known to take those actions, the Navy said.

President Donald Trump expressed concern for the crew of the McCain, which is based at the 7th Fleet's home port of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the Navy's website.

Corrected:
Editor's Note: It was previously reported USS John S. McCain is a San Diego-based ship. It is not. Its homeport is the Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan.