27 October 2014

Skipper of US destroyer relieved after mishap off Subic

MANILA, Philippines - A senior United States Navy officer has been relieved from his post a week after his warship rammed into two small fishing boats while sailing out of Subic Bay.

An online report by Norfolk, Virginia-based News Channel 3 said yesterday Commander John Bradford, skipper of the USS Stethem, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was relieved by his superior “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

Capt. Chris Sweeny replaced Bradford until a permanent officer is named to command the ship, the report said.

Under Bradford’s command, the Stethem was sailing out of Subic after being towed and pushed by two tugboats of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) when it rammed two fishing boats in its path last Oct. 13.

The mishap resulted in the sinking of the boats whose crewmembers – Orlito Cocjin, 44, Julie Mendez, 43 and Pampilo Bacsal, 33, all of Barangay Baretto, Olongapo City – survived by jumping into the sea. US sailors rescued them.

The Stethem was among the vessels docked in Subic during the recent Philippines-US Amphibious Landing Exercises 2015 in Palawan and Zambales.

Over 4,000 US Marines and sailors, including Pfc. Thomas Scott Pemberton, accused in the killing of transgender Filipino Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, participated in the joint maritime drill.

Pemberton is currently detained at Camp Aguinaldo.

SMBA authorities said the fishermen did not file a case against Stethem officials and crew after US authorities promised to shoulder the costs and expenses incurred in the accident.

The report said after being assisted by two SBMA tugboats, the Stethem left. The ship is based in Japan and is under the operational control of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet. (Jaime Laude, Philippine Star)

USS Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, docks in Subic’s Alava Pier yesterday for the Phl-US CARAT exercise. (Ernie Penaredondo)