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'Sudden Turn' Led to Deadly Collision of US Naval Warship, Oil Tanker


FILE - Damage is visible as the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain steers toward Changi naval base in Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC.

The collision of a U.S. Navy warship with an oil tanker last year was caused when the warship made "a sudden turn" that put it in the path of the tanker, according to a report issued Thursday by the Singapore government.

Ten sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain were killed when their ship collided with the Liberian-registered Alnic MC, Aug. 21, 2017, near the Strait of Malacca in Singapore territorial waters.

The report by the city-state's Transport Safety Investigation Board said "a series of missteps" led the USS John S. McCain to make its fatal turn just minutes before slamming into the Alnic MC.

The USS John S. McCain is named after the father and grandfather of U.S. Senator John McCain, both of them prominent admirals.

This combination of file photos show U.S. Navy ships the USS Antietam, top left; the USS Lake Champlain, top right; the USS Fitzgerald, bottom left; and the USS John S. McCain.
This combination of file photos show U.S. Navy ships the USS Antietam, top left; the USS Lake Champlain, top right; the USS Fitzgerald, bottom left; and the USS John S. McCain.

Two months earlier, another U.S. guided-missile destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippine container ship off the Japanese coast, resulting in the deaths of seven sailors.

A report issued last November by Admiral John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, found the collisions were “avoidable” and happened because of lax standards and poor preparation. They included failing to plan for safety as well as failures in adhering to sound navigation practice and executing basic watch procedures.

The commanding officers of both the USS John S. McCain and the USS Fitzgerald are facing criminal charges, including negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and endangering a ship. Several other officers from both ships are facing either criminal charges or administrative actions.

Several senior naval officers were fired as a result of the incidents, including Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet, the Navy's largest.

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