Navy unsure if missing sailor has transmitter
July 11, 2009
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy continued its search Thursday for a sailor who fell overboard from the USS Shiloh in waters leading to Tokyo Harbor.
The sailor fell from the guided-missile cruiser’s fantail at about 1 p.m. Wednesday, and there are no indications of foul play, 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis said Thursday evening.
"We are not giving up hope that we will find this sailor alive," Davis added.
The sailor’s next of kin have been notified of the incident. The sailor’s name was being withheld for 24 hours following notification, in compliance with Navy policy, Davis said.
The ship suspended its search Wednesday at sunset, though it remained at sea and resumed the search at sunrise. It would likely follow the same pattern Thursday night and Friday morning, Davis said.
It was unclear if the sailor was wearing a flotation vest or carrying a Man Overboard Indicator.
The indicators, which include a palm-sized transmitter usually placed in a sailor’s float coat, notify a ship when a sailor falls overboard. However, not all ships have the system installed, and 7th Fleet officials couldn’t confirm whether the Shiloh had the system Thursday.
Rep. Glenn Nye, D-Va., requested $2 million in the House’s 2010 defense budget bill last month, to outfit more ships and sailors with the system. He’s lobbying for even more money in a pending appropriations measure, and said that naval officials in his district want wider use of the system.
"If we have the technology to design a better man-overboard alert system, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t deploy it across the Navy," Nye said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. "We owe it to our sailors and Marines to give them every possible resource to complete their missions and come home safely, and that includes implementing a better man-overboard system."
The use of flotation and other prevention devices would be addressed during the ensuing investigation, Davis said.
The Shiloh spent Thursday searching Tokyo Bay’s west-side entrance nearest to the Miura Peninsula.
The peninsula begins about 25 miles from central Tokyo and includes Yokosuka Naval Base.
Meanwhile, two Navy tugboats searched the Chiba Peninsula on the east side of the roughly 20-mile-wide bay.
Japanese coast guard vessels Hamanami and Kurikaze also searched Thursday, along with a Japanese coast guard Puma helicopter. Two U.S. Navy SH-60B Seahawk helicopters from Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s HSL-51 Squadron patrolled the coastlines and other areas.
The sailor was performing routine work when he fell into rough seas about three miles south of Tokyo Harbor’s Buoy One, 7th Fleet officials said Wednesday.