Commanding Officer in Deadly USS McCain Crash Pleads Guilty to Negligence

Alfredo Sanchez is seen in this undated Navy photo.
U.S. Navy

The former commanding officer of the destroyer USS John S. McCain pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of dereliction of duty for his role in last year’s deadly collision that killed 10 sailors.

Commander Alfredo J. Sanchez was sentenced to a letter of reprimand and a $6,000 fine, as part of his plea deal agreement he will be required to retire from the Navy.

On August 21, 2017 10 sailors were killed when the destroyer collided with an oil tanker as it entered the busy waterway into the port of Singapore. The collision occurred two months after seven sailors were killed when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan.

Both collisions resulted in the removal of senior leaders in the Navy’s Seventh Fleet and to criminal proceedings against the senior leaders and some of the crew members of both ships.

Sanchez, the McCain’s commanding officer, was on the bridge when the warship collided with the Alnic MC following an apparent loss of steering control.

A Navy investigation later determined that Sanchez did not follow the recommendations of his command team to have the ship’s most experienced bridge team on duty as destroyer entered the busy waterway into Singapore. Investigators also found that Sanchez and the bridge team lacked a familiarity with some of the helm consoles that led to a perceived lack of steering.

Originally charged with negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vehicle, Sanchez pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of “dereliction in the performance of duties through neglect resulting in death” as part of a plea deal agreement.

He entered his plea at a special court martial hearing held at the Washington Navy Yard.

“I am ultimately responsible and stand accountable for the actions and decisions leading to USS John S. McCain’s collision and death of my ten Sailors,” an emotional Sanchez told the court. “I will forever question my decisions that contributed to this tragic event and fully recognize that no actions or desires will bring our sailors back.”

Sanchez told family members of the 10 sailors, “I will never forget them and they will never be forgotten.”

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SOURCE: ABC News, Luis Martinez