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Navy Sacks USS McCain Leaders After 'Preventable' Deadly Collision

The USS John S. McCain's commanding officer, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, left, and executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, right. (Photo/U.S. Navy)
The USS John S. McCain's commanding officer, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, left, and executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, right. (Photo/U.S. Navy)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- The Navy has relieved two USS John S. McCain senior officers in connection with a "preventable" deadly collision involving the destroyer and a civilian merchant vessel near Singapore.

Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer relieved the McCain's commanding officer, Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, and executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez, due to a loss of confidence in their ability to lead, said a Navy statement issued Wednesday.

The statement -- which called the Aug. 21 collision with an oil tanker that killed 10 McCain crew members "preventable" -- said Alfredo Sanchez displayed "poor judgement" while Jessie Sanchez "exercised poor leadership of the ship's training program."

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Alfredo Sanchez assumed duties as the McCain's executive officer in April 2015 and became the ship's commander in September 2016. He has been reassigned to Naval Forces Japan, while Jessie Sanchez will go to work for Yokosuka's Ship Repair Facility, the statement said.

A former USS McCampbell commander, Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, has been tapped to serve as the McCain's acting commander, the Navy said. USS Antietam Chief Engineer Lt. Cmdr. Ray Ball will become acting executive officer.

The Navy's Pacific leadership has been shaken up since a string of accidents in the region resulted in several leaders being removed from their positions.

In January, the USS Antietam ran aground and spilled roughly 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay.

In May, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat while operating off the east coast of the divided peninsula. In June, a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant ship killed seven sailors.

The commanding officers of the Antietam and Fitzgerald were relieved of their duties. The commanders of 7th Fleet, Task Force 70 and Destroyer Squadron 15 were also relieved after the collisions.

Last month, Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift announced he would retire after learning he would not be tapped to lead U.S. Pacific Command.