Top officers relieved of duty over U.S. warship collision

The commander and executive officer of a U.S. warship are relieved of their duties due to lost confidence after the vessel and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August.

Commander, executive officer reassigned by navy after 'preventable' crash

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision with an oil tanker off Singapore in August. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

The commander and executive officer of the USS John S. McCain were relieved of their duties Wednesday due to lost confidence after the warship and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August.

The cause of the Aug. 21 collision is still under investigation, but the U.S. navy described it as "preventable."

The navy statement said Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez and the ship's executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, were reassigned.

Ten U.S. sailors died and five were injured in the crash — one of several accidents in the region that raised concern over the safety and operational effectiveness of U.S. naval vessels.

Some navy officials have cited strains from frequent extended deployments, delayed maintenance, and nearly a decade of budget constraints and reductions in resources devoted to training as factors.

An official with the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency talks about the area of the search and rescue operations following the collision. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

But the navy statement said it also was "evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised poor judgment and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship's training program."

The navy fired the then commander of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, shortly after the McCain's crash.

It followed the collision of the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship in waters off Japan in June that left seven sailors dead.

In January, the USS Antietam ran aground near Yokosuka base in Japan. In May, the USS Lake Champlain had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.