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U.S. Navy 7th Fleet commander dismissed after USS John S. McCain collision

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WASHINGTON — Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin has been relieved of his duty as the commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan, according to the Navy.

This follows an incident Monday in which the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship.

Ten sailors assigned to the ship were missing after the accident, and the Navy has reported that “some” remains have been recovered, Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said Tuesday.

Swift will be in Japan today to meet 7th Fleet commanders and families from the affected warship.

The McCain and the tanker ship collided Monday east of the Malacca Strait, the fourth time a U.S. warship has been involved in an accident in Asian waters this year.

A statement from the 7th Fleet said Aucoin was relieved “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, who has already been nominated and confirmed for the position and promotion to vice admiral, will assume command immediately.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers found the remains in the sealed compartments aboard the McCain after it docked at a naval base in Singapore, Swift said.

U.S. military divers continue to search the flooded areas of the McCain.

The Royal Malaysian Navy has located one body at sea, and officials are working to determine whether it is one of the missing sailors, he said. Ships and planes are scouring the seas east of Singapore.

“Until we have exhausted any potential of recovering survivors or bodies, the search and rescue efforts will continue,” Swift said.

The White House expressed its “great sadness” about the incident.

“As the Navy begins the process of recovering our fallen sailors, our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends,” the statement said.