US destroyer collision: Singapore launches search-and-rescue efforts minutes after receiving alert

Helicopters leaving an aircraft carrier in pairs and heading southwards to continue the search and rescue efforts.
Helicopters leaving an aircraft carrier in pairs and heading southwards to continue the search and rescue efforts.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Minutes after the collision between US guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and Liberian-flagged merchant vessel Alnic MC, the Maritime and Port Authority of Sinapore (MPA) received an alert of the accident in Singapore's territorial waters.

The Singapore authorities, including the navy and the airforce, launched search and rescue operations, which are continuing through the night, said the MPA in a statement on Monday night (Aug 21) providing updates on the efforts.

It said the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) patrol vessel RSS Gallant and Singapore Police Coast Guard's (PCG) PH55 were on patrol in the vicinity when the incident happened at 5.24am, and provided assistance after receiving alert at 5.30am.

At 6.45am, the MPA activated three tugboats and a team of divers to the collision site in the Singapore Strait.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) despatched its first Super Puma to the scene at 7.39am, after being notified by the US Navy of missing and injured crew members.

The MPA deployed its command vessel at 8am while another RSN patrol vessel, RSS Resilience, and PCG's PH53 patrol vessel both arrived on scene at around 9am.

RSN's frigate RSS Intrepid was also deployed, followed by another Super Puma and one Chinook helicopter.

In total, some 250 personnel from the various Singapore agencies were deployed on scene for the search-and-rescue operations, said the MPA.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) deployed one frigate, two patrol vessels, two Super Pumas and one Chinook helicopter, while the PCG deployed two patrol vessels.

As of 6pm, five sorties have been carried out.

In addition, MPA has been issuing hourly navigational broadcasts to advise passing vessels of the incident and requested them to keep a lookout for any persons in the water.

The MPA said Singapore also accepted an offer of assistance from the Indonesian authorities, which deployed a helicopter to search the northern coast line of Bintan island, Indonesia. The US has also deployed their own assets to take part in the ongoing SAR efforts.

The MPA said one of the RSAF Super Pumas transferred four of the injured from the vessel at sea to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) while the fifth was brought via an ambulance to the same hospital after the US destroyer berthed at Changi Naval Base (CNB).

USS John S. McCain is currently berthed at CNB and Alnic MC is now at Singapore's eastern anchorage for inspections, said the MPA.

As of 8.30pm, SAR operations are still underway to locate the 10 crew who are unaccounted for.

"Efforts will continue through the night at sea with RSN and PCG vessels deployed, even as the US investigates the damaged interior of USS John S. McCain, said the MPA, which is investigating the incident.

Its chief executive Andrew Tan said: "Our thoughts are with the injured and families of the US Navy crew who are currently still missing following the incident in Singapore territorial waters.

"The Singapore authorities will spare no effort to try to find them, and render all possible assistance to our US friends."

US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, in a Twitter post last night, thanked Singapore for its "swift support and assistance during this time of need" as he pledged to investigate fully the cause of the incident.