Navy officers fired over 'preventable' USS McCain collision

Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez and Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez were relieved of their duties Tuesday and reassigned "due to a loss of confidence" as a result of the collision in August.

James LaPorta
The USS John S. McCain’s damaged hull is visible while berthed at the Changi Navy Base in Singapore on Aug. 21. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
The USS John S. McCain’s damaged hull is visible while berthed at the Changi Navy Base in Singapore on Aug. 21. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Two top Naval officers have been fired from their positions on the USS John S. McCain over the warship's "preventable" deadly collision with an oil tanker in August.

Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, the commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, and his executive officer Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez were relieved of their duties on Tuesday by Navy Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, the commander of the Navy's Seventh Fleet. The officers were fired "due to a loss of confidence," and reassigned, Navy officials said in a statement.


The USS John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer named after Arizona Sen. John McCain's grandfather and father, who were both Navy four-star admirals, was involved in a collision with the merchant oil tanker Alnic MC on Aug. 21., near Singapore. The wreck claimed the lives of 10 U.S. Navy Sailors and injured five more with extensive damage to both ships.

"While the investigation is ongoing, it is evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised poor judgement, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship's training program," Navy officials said.

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The August crash of the McCain came less than two months after another 7th Fleet ship, the USS Fitzgerald, another guided-missile destroyer, collided with a container ship in Tokyo Bay, leaving seven U.S. sailors dead.

The McCain and Fitzgerald collisions have spotlighted issues in the Navy's 7th Fleet, headquartered out of Japan, as the wrecks underscore leadership failures and corroding training standards, based on Congressional testimony alluding to naval crews being overworked and spread thin.

In September, the Government Accountability Office reported that a reduction in Navy crew sizes was contributing to safety risks, with some sailors working over 100 hours a week.

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Sen. John McCain, R-Az., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has called for an immediate end to U.S. sailors working over 100 hours a week as Navy leaders grapple with growing ship collisions and worn-out crews.

"I think I know what 100 hours a week does to people over time and that has been standard procedure for a long time," McCain said during a September hearing of the SASC focused on the collisions.

"I'm glad you've got RAND and whoever the hell else it is that is studying [the issue]... [but] you could make the change tomorrow," McCain added.

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Cmdr. A. Sanchez was reassigned to Commander, Naval Forces Japan and Cmdr. J. Sanchez was reassigned to Ship Repair Facility Yokosuka, said Navy officials.

Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, former commanding officer of USS McCampbell, assumed duties as acting commanding officer. Lt. Cmdr. Ray Ball, chief engineer of USS Antietam, will assume duties as acting executive officer, the Navy said.

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