SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy said on Thursday human remains found by Malaysia were not one of its 10 sailors missing after a collision between one of its guided-missile destroyers and a merchant vessel east of Singapore this week.
Medical examination of the remains, which the Malaysian navy discovered about eight nautical miles northwest of where the USS John S. McCain and a merchant vessel collided on Monday, confirmed it was not one of the 10 sailors, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement. The body would be returned to Malaysian authorities.
An international search-and-rescue operation involving aircraft, divers and vessels is looking for the missing sailors over an area of about 5,500 square kilometers around the crash site.
On Tuesday, U.S. Navy and Marine divers found remains of missing sailors inside sealed sections of the damaged hull of the John S. McCain, which is moored at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base. The Navy has not announced the identity or number of those found in the ship.
Four sailors injured in the crash left a Singapore hospital on Wednesday and have returned to duty, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said.
The pre-dawn collision was the fourth major accident for the U.S. Pacific Fleet this year and has prompted a review of its operations.
The Navy on Wednesday removed Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin citing “a loss of confidence in his ability to command” following the run of accidents.
Aucoin was due to step down next month. Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer takes command of the fleet.
This week, the U.S. Navy flagged plans for temporary and staggered halts in operations across its global fleet to allow staff to focus on safety.
On Wednesday, Seventh Fleet ships deployed at a facility in Yokosuka, Japan, participated in a one-day operational pause in which officers and crew underwent fresh risk management and communications training.
The Seventh Fleet, headquartered in Japan, operates as many as 70 ships, including the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, and has about 140 aircraft and 20,000 sailors.
Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Writing by Sam Holmes; Editing by Robert Birsel