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More Ships, Aircraft Added to Search for Missing USS Stethem Sailor in the South China Sea

USS Stethem (DDG 63) is moored pier side at the Republic of Korea (ROK) Fleet base in Busan in 2016. US Navy Photo

More U.S. ships have joined the South China Sea search for the missing sailor who is missing from guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG-63), U.S. 7th Fleet said in an early Wednesday statement.

U.S. Military Sealift Command ships USNS Vice Admiral K. R. Wheeler (T-AG-5001) USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) have joined Stethem and Japanese JS Izumo and JS Sazanami in the search for the missing sailor. A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft also joined the ships.

The sailor was reported missing from the ship at about 9 A.M. local time on Tuesday – about 9 P.M. EST on Monday, U.S. 7th Fleet said.
The Japanese and American warships were conducting low-level bilateral exercises in the South China Sea when the sailor went missing, a U.S. Navy official told USNI News.

A report in Defense News indicated two People’s Liberation Army Navy ships that were shadowing the JMSDF and the U.S. destroyer have joined in the search.

The Navy is withholding the name of the sailor as the search continues.
In June, a sailor hiding on USS Shiloh (CG-67) prompted a search by JMSDF assets, U.S. Navy and Japan Coast Guard. The sailor was later found hiding on the ship.

The following is the complete Aug. 2, 2017 statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.

SOUTH CHINA SEA – U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships and aircraft are searching for a Sailor from USS Stethem (DDG 63) reported missing while the ship was conducting routine operations in the South China Sea, Aug. 1.

Stethem reported a man overboard at about 9 a.m. local. Multiple searches were conducted inside the ship, but were unable to locate the Sailor.

USS Stethem, USNS Amelia Earhart, USNS Vice Admiral K. R. Wheeler and a U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft are assisting in the search.

In addition, JMSDF ships JS Izumo and JS Sazanami are searching the area along with helicopters from Izumo.

The Joint Personnel Recovery Center Hawaii is also assisting with this search.

The Sailor’s name is being withheld while the search is ongoing.