Navy confirms Metro Detroiter died in tanker crash
The U.S. Navy on Thursday confirmed the death of a Metro Detroit native who was among 10 American sailors who went missing after a collision between the USS John McCain and an oil tanker near Singapore.
The remains of Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, of New Jersey were found by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers, officials said in a statement three days after the collision in Southeast Asian waters.
The news comes after the Navy dismissed the commander of the Asia-based 7th Fleet in the wake of several warship accidents that have raised questions about its operations in the Pacific.
A third-generation sailor, Smith grew up in Novi and relocated to Virginia with his father as a teen to prepare for the Navy through ROTC, said his mother, April Brandon of Milford, earlier this week. She said Smith followed in the footsteps of his father and other relatives.
Darryl Smith called his son “a great young man” who made his family “incredibly proud.”
“Kenneth was a great young man, son and sailor,” the elder Smith said in a statement issued by the Navy. “He truly loved his family, the Navy and his shipmates. I am incredibly proud of his service to our country. He will be greatly missed and I am thankful we had 22 wonderful years together.”
The Navy suspended search and rescue efforts for the missing sailors in a 2,100-square-mile area east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.
The Navy said it would continue search and recovery efforts inside the flooded compartments of the ship.
Nine sailors still are missing, officials said. They have been identified as:
■Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, 31, from Missouri
■Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, 39, from Texas
■Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26, from Maryland
■Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, 21, from Ohio
■Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23, from Maryland
■Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, 28, from New York
■Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, 26, from Connecticut
■Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, 20, from Texas
■Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, 23, from Illinois.
“The USS John S. McCain collision is a terrible tragedy and I join the rest of Michigan and the nation in mourning the loss of decorated sailor Kenneth Aaron Smith,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement issued Thursday. “Sue and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Kenneth’s family, friends, and the entire Navy community during this difficult time.”
Officials said the McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with the Alnic MC, a 600-foot-long, Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker on Aug. 21.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.