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Former CO of USS John McCain pleads guilty to negligence charges

The former commanding officer of the USS John McCain pleaded guilty in late May to dereliction of duty as part of a plea deal in the case involving a fatal crash with an oil tanker in a busy Singapore waterway. The August 2017 collision killed 10 sailors and injured many others.

The plea deal for former CO Alfredo Sanchez comes just ahead of the June 15 deadline for injured sailors and their families to file claims for damages.

According to the Navy Times, the Navy “quietly dropped” more severe charges against Sanchez. The Navy had previously said it would seek charges of negligent homicide against him. After pleading guilty to the reduced charges of “dereliction in the performance of duties through neglect resulting in death” at a special court martial hearing, Sanchez received a sentence that included a $6,000 fine, letter of reprimand and requirement that he retire from the Navy.

Other officers on the McCain are facing similar charges. The former second-in-command was charged with dereliction of duty in February, and the Chief Boatswain’s Mate also recently pleaded guilty to dereliction for duty for failing to ensure that sailors were able to use a new navigational system.

Navy investigators found that the team on the bridge at the time of the collision was not sufficiently trained to use some of the steering consoles. Sanchez was charged for dereliction of duty in part because he did not ensure that the most experienced team was at the helm while navigating a waterway known to be heavily trafficked. A Navy report released in November found that the collision and the tragic deaths could have been prevented and were caused primarily by “complacency, over-confidence and lack of procedural compliance,” particularly regarding operating the ship control console.