President Donald Trump’s initial reaction to the crash of the USS John McCain with a merchant ship east of Singapore that left five sailors injured and ten missing was: “That’s too bad.”
Trump responded to the crash when reporters shouted questions at him late Sunday when he arrived on the South Lawn of the White House on the presidential helicopter Marine One. The president has returned to Washington D.C. after a 17-day vacation spent mostly at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Steve Herman, White House bureau chief for the Voice of America, asked Trump about the crash at 8:34 pm. The Navy didn’t announce that 10 members of the guided-missile destroyer’s crew were missing until half an hour later.
Trump issued an updated statement late Sunday. “Thoughts & prayers are w/ our @USNavy sailors aboard the #USSJohnSMcCain where search & rescue efforts are underway,” Trump tweeted.
The ship has arrived at Changi Naval Base in Singapore after the collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC broke a hole in its hull that flooded sections of crew quarters and machinery and communications rooms.
“Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding,” said a Navy statement on the collision.
Four of the ship’s injured crew were flown to a hospital in Singapore with non-life threatening injuries.
The collision follows another crash in June between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship in Japanese waters. The warship failed to take evasive action or respond to warning signals, according to a report by the container ship’s captain. The crash left seven crew members dead.
The leaders of the USS Fitzgerald, including the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief were relieved of their duties last Friday, August 18. Crew members who were standing watch were also punished. “The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship,” said a Navy statement.
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer tweeted Sunday that he had “no words” to describe Trump’s initial response to the latest collision and news of the injured sailors, indicating that he expected more from the man who is the commander-in-chief of America’s military.
The ship is named after the grandfather and father of Senator John McCain who were both Admirals in the U.S. Navy.
Senator McCain wrote online Sunday that he and his wife are “keeping America's sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight.”
A search for the 10 missing crew of the USS John McCain is underway with patrol ships and helicopters coordinating with the Singaporean coast guard.
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