Report: Navy To Relieve Seventh Fleet Commander After String Of Fatal Accidents

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The U.S. Navy plans to remove a three-star admiral as commander of the Seventh Fleet in response to a recent string of deadly maritime accidents, according to U.S. officials.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin is expected to be relieved of command Wednesday, two officials familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal. The Navy reportedly did not offer comment.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a large oil tanker early Monday morning in waters east of Singapore. As the tanker was over three times the size of the American warship, it punched a sizable hole in the hull of the destroyer. Five sailors were injured, and ten others were reported missing afterwards. Search and rescue teams have already found the remains of several sailors.

This is the fourth major incident in the region this year.

The latest accident follows an incident in June in which seven U.S. Navy sailors were killed when a container vessel slammed into the side of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald near Japan. The Navy was at fault for the accident, and the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, the ship’s executive officer, and the senior enlisted sailor were all relieved of their commands.

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel in May, and in January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo Bay.

All four ships were Seventh Fleet vessels.

“One tragedy like this is one too many and while each of these four events is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Adm. Scott Swift, head of the Pacific Fleet, said in Singapore Tuesday. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has ordered multiple reviews and investigations to determine the root cause of this unfortunate trend, which is costing the lives of American sailors.

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