SINGAPORE - The bodies of some of the 10 missing sailors on board guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, which had collided with an oil tanker in Singapore waters, were found after two days of search-and-rescue efforts.
Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, told reporters on Tuesday (Aug 22) that US divers discovered the bodies while performing recovery operations inside the guided-missile destroyer that collided with tanker Alnic MC on Monday morning.
Malaysia has reported the discovery of a body potentially belonging to another missing sailor.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Changi Naval Base, he said US divers have uncovered remains within the damaged section of the naval vessel.
He said Malaysia has also reported the discovery of remains and that the US are in the process of getting the remains for identification.
Sources told The Straits Times that three bodies have been found and are awaiting identification.
Adm Swift, who oversees the 7th Fleet that the John S. McCain is part of, said search-and-rescue efforts will continue until a determination has been made that there is no possibility of finding survivors.
Asked about possible causes of the collision and whether a cyberbreach into the naval vessel was a possibility, Adm Swift said: "I don't want to comment on specifics. It's the early stages of investigations. I have heard of these reports of cyber attacks and interference. But I've seen no indications."
Addressing a question whether the collision reflected that the US naval personnel were overworked and understaffed, Adm Swift said: "I don't think that's the case. I was on John S. McCain, looking into the eyes of sailors. Even after the heroic efforts, I didn't see exhaustion."
Pointing out how the vessel's crew took immediate action to help the injured and save the flooded ship by securing watertight boundaries, Adm Swift added that the US Navy is not taking any considerations off the table and will investigate every scenario.
Adm Swift also thanked countries involved in a multi-agency, and multi-national search-and-rescue effort led by Singapore, which has covered a wider area on Tuesday (Aug 22).
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Tuesday, in a statement providing updates, said Singapore has accepted and received offers of assistance from foreign countries, with Australia the latest to join in the search-and-rescue efforts.
MPA said the search area covered by the Singapore-led efforts has been expanded to cover 2,620 sq km, with Singapore and the United States covering the centre of the identified search area, while Malaysian and Indonesian assets are covering the north and south.
The Straits Times understands that the search area on Monday was 128 sq km.
Ten crew of the US destroyer, which was involved in a collision with tanker Alnic MC in Singapore waters at 5.24am on Monday, remain unaccounted for. Five others were injured.
The MPA said the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) patrol vessels RSS Gallant and RSS Fearless were deployed on Tuesday, along with two vessels from the Singapore Police Coast Guard (PCG).
To cover a wider search area, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) deployed one Fokker 50 and one C-130, and had one Super Puma on standby, while the MPA, as the co-ordinating agency for the search-and-rescue efforts, has a craft on scene.
The search efforts are being coordinated with the US, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia.
The MPA said Singapore on Monday accepted an offer of assistance from Indonesia to search the northern coast line of Bintan island.
It also accepted Malaysia's offer on Tuesday to send four aircraft to join the expanded search area, including along Malaysia's coast line.
Indonesia has increased its deployment to two aircraft and three vessels while Australia has offered Singapore fixed wing assets to join the search, added the MPA.
The US Navy also deployed assets from USS America while diving operations by US Navy to access sealed compartments located in damaged parts of the ship are ongoing.
"In total, so far, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has deployed three patrol vessels, three fast craft, one frigate, two Super Pumas, one Chinook, one C-130 and one Fokker 50 while PCG deployed four patrol craft," said the MPA, adding that it has deployed two craft, three tugboats and a team of divers.
It has also been issuing hourly navigational broadcasts to advise passing vessels of the incident and to request them to keep a lookout for any persons in the water.
USS John S. McCain, which was en route to Singapore for a routine call, remains berthed at Changi Naval Base and Alnic MC is at Singapore's eastern anchorage for inspections.
US Vice-President Mike Pence said that to have sailors killed in two collisions this year was disconcerting.
“It’s just unacceptable and we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Pence told Fox News on Tuesday. “But right now our hearts are with the families of those that are lost and we honour them.”