Cherry Hill man among sailors missing in USS John McCain accident

Camera icon Royal Malaysian Navy
Royal Malaysian Navy personnel pack an unidentified body on the frigate KD Lekiu. The Navy said the body did not belong to a U.S. sailor.

A Cherry Hill man is among the 10 sailors missing after a U.S. warship collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia last weekend, according to news reports.

April Brandon of Milford, Mich., said her son, Kenneth Smith, 22, of Cherry Hill, remained unaccounted for in the collision east of Singapore between the USS John McCain and the Alnic MC. Vessels and aircraft were searching for the missing sailors. Five other sailors were injured and are expected to recover.

“We’re all rooting for you Kenneth. The entire country is rooting for you,” Brandon posted on her Facebook page. She did not immediately respond to an interview request Tuesday.

Camera icon via Facebook
Kenneth Smith

Brandon told several local TV stations that two officers visited her Monday at her home. She described her son as a “great kid” who wanted to develop video games. Smith moved to Cherry Hill when his father, a naval officer, was transferred to the area, his mother told NBC10 in Philadelphia.

An attempt to reach Smith’s father, Darryl, was unsuccessful. Tuesday evening, a township police car was parked in front of the Smiths’ tan-colored split-level with maroon shutters and a well-manicured lawn. The officer stopped a reporter from approaching the house, saying the family was requesting privacy.

In a statement that NBC10 said the elder Smith issued through the Navy, he thanked those who had offered support to the family and expressed appreciation for “the courageous work of the crew in the aftermath of the collision and the ongoing rescue efforts.”

Smith grew up in Novi, Mich., and moved to Norfolk, Va., as a teenager to live with his father. He is among several family members to serve in the Navy and wanted to serve his country, his mother said.

Navy divers searching a flooded compartment of the McCain found remains of some of the missing sailors, but they had yet to be identified, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander said Tuesday. The search and rescue operations will continue “until the probability of discovering sailors is exhausted,” the Navy said.

Camera icon Cherry Hill East yearbook
Kenneth Smith in a Cherry Hill East Class of 2013 yearbook image

Adm. Scott Swift also said at a news conference in Singapore, where the McCain is docked, that Malaysian officials had found remains of some of the missing sailors in sealed compartments. At least one body was found, but it had yet to be identified, and it was unknown whether it was a crew member, he said..

The names of the missing have not been officially released. But some families have identified their kin as among the missing.

“Nothing is confirmed, though rumors are abundant,” Brandon wrote on Facebook. “Please keep hope, continue forward with your day, hug your family, love one another, pray or vibe positively, whatever it is you do. To the families of the other missing sailors, you’re in my thoughts, my heart is at sea with yours.”

The collision between the McCain and the 30,000-ton oil tanker ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer’s  hull. The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit.

Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

This article includes information from the Associated Press.