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Navy fires commander of 7th Fleet after deadly USS McCain collision

Kazuhiro Nogi / Getty Images

The US Navy has fired one of its highest-ranking admirals because of a string of embarrassing and dangerous gaffes, the latest a collision near Singapore that left 10 sailors missing and increasingly presumed to be dead.

US Navy Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, decided to relieve Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin of his duties “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.” Aucoin has served in the navy since 1981.

Aucoin, who commands the Navy’s 7th Fleet, had been slated to retire in a month, so the move shows the Navy’s deep concern and fury about the recent spate of crashes.

The announcement comes as the Navy continues to probe Monday’s catastrophic collision between the USS John S. McCain and the Alnic MC, a 30,000 ton Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker. The crash injured five and left 10 American sailors missing.

Remains of some of the missing sailors were found Tuesday, but Swift told reporters it was “premature to say how many and what the status of recovery of those bodies is." The Malaysian Navy also located a body, which it has given to the US to identify.

The search for the sailors is still underway, but it seems increasingly unlikely that the sailors survived.

The US Navy announced a day long halt to operations Monday for a full safety review. The Seventh Fleet has had four separate accidents in 2017 with two causing loss of lives. Earlier this summer, the USS Fitzgerald crashed into a Philippine container ship, killing seven American sailors.

The cause of the USS Fitzgerald crash is also still unknown, but the navy has relieved the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, executive officer, and the senior enlisted sailor.

Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer will take over Aucoin’s position of immediately, the Navy says.