Home » News & Analysis » UPDATED: Ensign Aboard USS Jason Dunham Dies Following Small Boat Accident in the Red Sea

UPDATED: Ensign Aboard USS Jason Dunham Dies Following Small Boat Accident in the Red Sea

Undated file photo of Ens. Sarah Mitchell, 23, of Feasterville, Penn. Ens. Mitchell died from injuries sustained aboard USS Jason Dunham (DD 109), July 8, 2018. US Navy photo.

A U.S. sailor assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) has died from injuries following a Sunday small-boat incident in the Red Sea, Navy officials confirmed to USNI News on Monday.

The Navy on Monday evening identified the sailor as 23-year-old Ensign Sarah Mitchell, of Feasterville, Penn.

“The sailor was medically evacuated to a hospital in Aqaba, Jordan, and was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m., local time,” reads a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet provided to USNI News. There is no evidence of foul play and the sailor died in a “non-hostile” environment, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters on Monday. The Navy will identify the sailor following family notification.

“These losses are a solemn reminder that our business is inherently dangerous — but through training and pertinent planning, we always try to mitigate the risks to our personnel who are our most valuable asset,” Manning said.

The incident is under investigation.

Mitchell graduated from Virginia Tech in May of 2017 and reported to the destroyer on June 5, 2017, according to her biography.

Dunham is currently assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group and departed its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. on June 2. The ship transited the Suez Canal on June 28 and entered the Red Sea. Earlier this month, the ship conducted operations with the Egyptian Navy.

USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) conducts a passing exercise (PASSEX) with the Egyptian Navy ship El Zafer (F951) on July 1, 2018. US Navy Photo

According to USNI News’ records, Sunday’s casualty is the first operational death of a U.S. surface navy sailor since 10 sailors died aboard USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) after an Aug. 21 collision with a merchant vessel near Singapore. The casualty is the fifth operational Navy death overall this calendar year, according to USNI News records.

The following are the two complete July 9, 2018, statements from U.S. 5th Fleet.

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS — A Sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) died from injuries sustained while conducting small boat training July 8.

Ensign Sarah Mitchell, 23, of Feasterville, Pennsylvania, was medically evacuated to a hospital in Aqaba, Jordan, and was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m., local time.

No other Sailors were injured and an investigation is ongoing


MANAMA, Bahrain — A Sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) died from injuries sustained while conducting small boat operations July 8.

The Sailor was medically evacuated to a hospital in Aqaba, Jordan, and was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m., local time. The Navy is investigating the circumstances of the death. In accordance with Department of Defense policy, the identity of the Sailor will be released 24 hours following notification of family members.

Dunham is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

  • Rocco

    My condolences to the Family! Unfortunately these things happen. They seem more prevalent these days with social media crawling up everything these days! Back in my time aboard carriers we lost on the average 5 sailors. Including pilots from landing & launch accidents . Even suicide.

  • Ed L

    Sad, Truely Sad. Deck and Boat Operations are dangerous to all involved. I have a nice dent and scar in my head from a small boat recovery. my safety helmet was completely destroyed. Throw in the challenging nature of the Sea and I think back wondering how I ever survive. Dispite all my training. But losing a shipmate is the hardest feeling I ever had to deal with.

    • Centaurus

      Much agreed, much agreed.

    • Manny Campos

      Exactly. Serving aboard a radar picket vessel in the Pacific, our CO ordered the motor whale boat launched to investigate floating debris near our cruising perimeter. Upon release of the cables holding the davits one of the rollers slipped off the track and the davit dropped into the boat, nearly striking the coxswain in the head. The saddest part of the incident was losing the motor whale boat; it could not be brought back on board without the davit arm operable. Attempts to sink it with rifle fire failed because the teak wood hull was impenetrable. So, somewhere in the Pacific about 600 miles from San Francisco, there is a partially submerged motor whale boat, a.k.a. the Captain’s Gig!

      • Rocco

        Lol!!! He should of went down with it!!!! …… The Skipper I mean!!

    • Rocco


  • Marcd30319

    Always sad to hear about loss of life.

  • Duane

    Going down to the sea in ships is always dangerous work. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, Ensign Mitchell. We salute you.

  • Bhess

    Very sad, God Bless her and her family.


    Fair Winds And Following Seas. Rest In Peace. GBU

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    A great loss my condolences and thanks to her family for their great sacrifice. Rest In peace Sarah Mitchell

  • DaSaint

    Always a dangerous business. My prayers to her family, shipmates, and friends. We honor her service and sacrifice.

  • MNCMNavyRetired

    My pelvis was crushed during a small boat transfer. I was pinned between the small boat deck house and the side of the USS Pioneer. It happened in an instant and it is a constant reminder that what we sometimes think of as simple evolutions can have very serious consequences if we let our guard down for even a second.

  • Kim Chul Soo

    Sam, with appropriate deference she is not a sailor but a U.S. Naval Officer.

    • disqus_76IWPka2vZ

      Everyone who goes down to the sea in ships is a sailor. I enlisted as an E-1 and am now a retired Mustang. The benediction applies to all of us, “Sailor rest your oars!”

      • Bill

        You missed the point. There is a difference between Officer and enlisted

        • disqus_76IWPka2vZ

          I did not miss anything. You just do not understand my comment. What were you in the Navy?

    • b2

      Exactly Kim, I noticed the same when this story broke. However it seems that historic phraseology went out in the past decade or so..along with all the social engineering ongoing. Always was (my entire life in/out of the Nav) the “Officers and Sailors of the US Navy”… Sounds too elitist to those egalitarian socilaists amongst us..

      Read the attributions carefully. If PAOs from 5th fleet spew this error (implemented on purpose…) Mr. Legrone simply restates it. He attributes the story to them, IE the error comes from Navy “officials” PAO types…

      Its all part of the ongoing doublespeak in our brave new world….They all wear some form of Khaki nowadays from E-1 to O-10…when they ain’t wearing aquaflage…

      RIP Ensign, you were too young to go. A Naval Officer of the Line in the finest traditions of the Navy.

  • Jennifer Hammons

    WOW, this is absolutely unbelievable. If the Navy wouldn’t have lied about the USS Fitzgerald and McCain I would believe this to be just an unfortunate accident but duty to the tremendous amount inconsistencies blantent lies, changes of the official report, AIS reporting incorrectly,

    The Civilian ship, ACX Crystals’ heading was reported completely false and their course pre and post “accident” were as if they were purposely hunting the Fitzgerald down.

    The manuvers were like that of Frat boys taking out Daddys ski boat on, Lake Havasu, during spring break.

    I have been investigating both the Fitz and McCain for months. The one thing that has come from the Navy that had stayed consistent are the lies.

    If these incidents were a matter of National security I could accept that the families could accept that. But insulting these sailors compentency to cover-up what really happened is NOT okay.

    As a Navy veteran I am ashamed of how things have been handled in the last few years.

    The families deserve the truth the American public deserve transparency and most of all

    Every single one of the fallen .saillors deserve Purple Hearts

    Another thing how many of y’all know that the crews of the Fitzgerald and the McCain were forced to sign NDA’s yes non disclosure that did happen with the USS Cole.

    Demand answers thoughts and prayers for this beautiful young Naval Officer l me

    • Rocco

      Are you NCIS?? How do you come to the conclusions you just made accusations over on the Navy!!! This unfortunate incident didn’t even make the News as far I know!!

      • John Arquette

        Prove her wrong or shut the fuck up, asshole

        • SDW

          She is making the accusations. The burden of proof (or support, at least) is on Ms. Hammons.

          • Jennifer Hammons

            Wrong, the Navy has in their official report accussed the sailors of being untrained, tired, over worked and just not doing their jobs. There is an enlisted and junior officer being accussed aside for the COs essentially being accussed of invoullentary homicide derelection of duty etc legally not even speaking on how they are being portrayed to the families and the public. Careers ruined 17 fallen sailors

            I’m pointing out the inconsistencies in the Navy’s story so the burden of proof is not on me it’s on the Navy.

            They have not proven what they are claiming happened. We could easily run with the narrative and say damn that sucks but just take an hour looking into the official story comparing it to evidence you will quickly see how many inconsistencies and blantent lies they have tried to sell to the public and families.

          • SDW

            Thank you for the beginnings of a case to support your accusations. Please be assured that I don’t apply a different standard to the USN in terms of making its case for throwing half the UCMJ against JO’s and sailors that may have been doing the best they could (and all that could be reasonably expected) given the state of the equipment and their training.

            As for the specifics of what you allege, please provide references, if available, for the AIS tracks and other, original source, corroborating evidence. This may not be the forum for presenting your case for lies and inconsistencies. That may abuse the USNI’s patience. I generally don’t spend time on conspiracy theories so am not familiar with the usual web sites and such but would be happy to see something of what you refer to.

          • Jennifer Hammons

            Conspiracy therories? So looking at the official story comparing the evidence is called conspiracy theory? This is why America has become so ignorant and frankly If USNI and wantsevery other MSM refuste not to do real journalism I honestly don’t care how they feel.

            If no one holds our elected officials and news media accountable or the people that we are supposed to intrust with our National Security and the lives of our brave men and women in the military. Than they will continue to do and say whatever they want and the American public will continue to tow the line of disception.

            Let’s not forget about 9/11 – operation Geronimo and Extortion17

        • muzzleloader

          Sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder there, pal.

          • Jennifer Hammons

            No I have no chip I do however am one of the only handful of people trying to do our absolute best to get answers for the families from the incidents from last year.

            this case could be completely legit a horrible accident. But unfortunately the way they handled the “accidents” from last year make everything suspect

          • muzzleloader

            My comment was not pointed at you, miss. It was directed towards John Arquette who had a quite profane comment towards another post.

          • Jennifer Hammons

            Ooo lol I was wondering like how strange sorry

          • muzzleloader

            I was reading some of your other Disqus posts. You are a columnist with Gateway Pundit?

          • Jennifer Hammons

            I am no such thing send me those so I can check them out. I’m pretty easy to find I’m on YouTube FB Twitter etc all with this same name I’m not Anonymous I’m just a Navy Veteran that cares

        • Jennifer Hammons


        • Chesapeakeguy

          The same can be said to YOU. Prove her right or zip it (I won’t go into the sewer like you do for the sake of expressing myself!).

    • Bill

      WTF are you doing investigations…for month…..for? You sound like a disgruntled ex sailor who thinks she knows more than those in charge (who actually do know more).
      Leave it up to the professionals

      • Jennifer Hammons

        Well if they would have done an. Honest job and not lied given inconsistencies about the incidents.

        The hostial words you are using make me feel like you are part of the cover-up damage co troll team maybe I am wrong

        But what I’m not wrong about is that the incidents from last year didn’t happen. Like reported and due to the families scared to speak out I will do it for them. Until they get the answers they deserve.

    • Ed L

      Have been a Navy Boat crew and Coxswain for over a decade. There are so many factors to take into account before fixing who’s or what was responsible. Especially during launching and recovery of small boats. That’s when an accident is most likely could happen.

      • Jennifer Hammons

        That is absolutely a fact. I am quite sure this was an unfortunate accident. But unfortunately 17 sailors died last year with so many lies and inconsistencies and yet essentially noone is talking about it. Or when they do speak about it they blame a sleeping captain or an E-2 etc. Only myself and 1 other person is still publicly speaking on this researching the official story the trials etc. I didn’t know the sailors on these ships however I feel like I know most of them now bc I have become close with many of the parents . Most do not believe the official story and want answers but they are to afraid to speak out about it bc they were told in not certain terms that they are not to speak out.

        We all joined knowing we could very well loose our lives but noone ever imagines thst if it was to occur they would be disregarded to cover up the real story.

        • Chesapeakeguy

          I insist that the REAL truth be presented in all these incidents. And yes, the Navy has conducted itself in a dubious manner at times in the past when it comes to their explanations and blame for certain events. Their allegations that a gay sailor caused the explosion on the USS Iowa in 1989 was particularly egregious, given what was proved about that. There are those who believe that the REAL reason for the loss of the USS Thresher in 1963 has been covered up (see this month’s Proceedings Magazine). But I also believe that it is far too early to be asserting that something happened that claimed this young officer’s life when no information has been released other than the most basic of details. I admire people who endeavor to hold those in power accountable. That should apply to Navy admirals as it does to politicians. But it is far too early to be alleging that something suspicious is happening as far as what has been released concerning her death. We should ALL let the processes work and see what the final report is before we start looking for cover ups and the like.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    God Bless her and her loved ones and colleagues. She came from Pennsylvania and attended VA Tech, two places very dear to me. May she RIP.

  • Major Tom

    RIP and condolences to the family.

  • Mu’ammar Abdur-Rashid

    Very Sad to hear, Fair Winds And Following Seas. My condolences to her family.

  • tiger

    So what happened????

  • tHeWasTeDYouTh

    so how did she die?

  • onehstrybuff

    Looking for an update to this story, has anyone heard anything else ??