The US Navy on Wednesday dismissed Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin, the commander of the fleet that has sustained four collisions in Asia and deaths of over a dozen sailors in 2017, an official said.
Admiral Aucoin, the head of the Seventh Fleet based in Japan, the Navy’s largest overseas fleet, was removed in connection with the four collisions since January, including two fatal ones in the past two months, the New York Times cited a US Navy statement as saying.
Admiral Aucoin was relieved “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command”, the Navy said. He had commanded the fleet since September 2015.
The move followed Monday’s incident in which the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship near Singapore. Ten sailors assigned to the ship were missing following the accident.
The McCain and the tanker ship collided east of the Malacca Strait and the collision was the second in two months involving a destroyer from the Seventh Fleet.
Divers on Tuesday found remains of missing American sailors in the flooded compartments of the Navy destroyer, said Admiral Scott H. Swift, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet.
“It is premature to say how many or what the status of the recovery of those bodies is.” Admiral Swift said the search at sea would continue despite the discovery of remains in the ship.
The Royal Malaysian Navy located one body at sea and officials were working to determine whether it was one of the missing sailors, he said. Ships and planes continue to scour the seas east of Singapore.
The collision prompted the Navy to order a rare suspension of ship operations worldwide for a day or two in the next week to review safety and operational procedures. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said an inquiry into the incident had begun.
The White House expressed its “great sadness” about the incident. “As the Navy begins the process of recovering our fallen sailors, our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends,” the statement said.
The destroyer was named after John S. McCain Sr. and John S. McCain Jr., Navy Admirals who were the grandfather and father of Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.