A Cherry Hill, New Jersey, man is among the sailors who went missing when a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with an oil tanker off Malaysia this weekend, his family tells NBC10.
Kenneth Smith, 22, is one of 10 sailors who remain unaccounted for after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain was hit by the tanker Alnic MC at 5:24 a.m. Singapore time Monday (5:24 p.m. EDT Sunday) while enroute to Singapore, the man's mother, April Brandon, said Tuesday.
The Navy has yet to officially identify any of the missing sailors.
Brandon described her son as a "compassionate, smart man" in a instant message exchange with NBC10.
"Kenny is an online sci-fi author, an animal and human rights activist, and a compassionate, smart man," she said.
Smith is originally from Milford, Michigan, a town near Detroit, Brandon said. He moved with his father, Darryl Smith, to Norfolk, Virginia in high school. They later moved to Cherry Hill when his father, a naval Electronics Technician Third Class Petty Officer, was transferred to the area.
Lexie Mullner, Smith's friend and former classmate at Cherry Hill East High School, said he always wanted to join the Navy and follow in his father's footsteps.
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"He's one of the best people I know, he always has time for the people that he cares about," she said. "He's super resourceful so if anyone can make it out of a bad situation, it's him."
In a statement released through the U.S. Navy, Darryl Smith thanked those who've offered support to the family.
"I appreciate the courageous work of the crew in the aftermath of the collision and the on-going rescue efforts," the statement read in part.
Brandon said two Navy officers came to her house early Monday to notify her Smith was missing. She has hope her son will be rescued.
"I have faith in my son's training," she said. "Men and women like my son are what makes America, and the world, great."
A search for the sailors continues, with the U.S., Singaporean and Malaysian navies taking part.
Remains of some American sailors were recovered by the Malaysian Navy Tuesday, Adm. Scott Swift of the U.S. Pacific Command said. They have not been identified.
The Alnic MC, a 30,000-ton, 600-foot long ship sailing under the Liberian flag, punched a large hole in the USS McCain's rear port hull when the two collided. Crew sleeping quarters, machinery and communications rooms were damaged. Five sailors were hurt in addition to those who went missing.
The McCain incident is the second collision between a U.S. Navy 7th Fleet destroyer and a ship in two months. In June, the USS Fitzgerald hit a Japanese merchant container ship. Seven sailors were killed in a crash that was blamed on a loss of "situational awareness" and "serious mistakes" by the crew.
A Navy review is underway in both crashes.