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Metro Detroiter could be among sailors missing in crash

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A Metro Detroit native could be among the 10 American sailors missing after a collision between the U.S.S. John S. McCain and an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters.

Kenneth Smith, 22, could be one of the missing sailors, his mother, April Brandon, 40, of Milford, said Tuesday.

“On behalf of our entire family, I want to thank all those who have expressed concern and offered prayers and support as we await word from the Navy on our son, Kenneth,” Brandon said in a statement. “As you can imagine, this is a very difficult time for our family and we respectfully request that you honor our privacy. Thank you.”

In a Facebook post Monday morning, Brandon said: “Two Naval officers just left my house. Kenneth, my baby, is missing at sea. We’ll be updated when they are.”

As of Tuesday morning, Brandon said in another post that she had yet not received further word about her son.

“Nothing is confirmed, though rumors are abundant,” her post said. “When I have something from the Navy, I will update you.

“Please keep hope, continue forward with your day, hug your family, love one another, pray or vibe positively, whatever it is you do. To the families of the other missing sailors, you're in my thoughts, my heart is at sea with yours.”

Smith grew up in Novi and relocated to Virginia with his father as a teen to prepare for the Navy through the ROTC, Brandon told Fox 2 Detroit Monday. She also told WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) he followed in the footsteps of his father and other relatives.

As news of Smith's disappearance spread Monday, online users offered support to his family.

“I’m really sorry,” one wrote on Facebook. “Prayers for your son, and the rest of my brothers and sisters.”

Another posted: “still praying that he is found safe. My heart is breaking for you…”

The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the collision early Monday morning left 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

Officials said the McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with the Alnic MC, a 600-foot-long, Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker.

There is no immediate explanation for the collision, which happened in an area east of the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, officials said Monday. The strait is a 500-mile long waterway that connects the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea between Sumatra and Malaysia. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

It’s the second major collision in the last two months involving the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

Staff writer Mark Hicks contributed

The Associate Press contributed