A sailor reported overboard and missing since June 8, has been found in the place the Navy least expected — aboard the ship he was thought to have gone overboard from.
According to the US 7th Fleet's public affairs team, Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 3rd Class Peter Mims, assigned to the guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh, was reported missing a week ago and was assumed to have fallen overboard at night during normal operations approximately 180 miles east of Okinawa, Japan.
An exhaustive search across a 5,500 square mile block yielded nothing on the whereabouts of the missing sailor. The search encompassed a 50-hour period, and involved Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force warships, as well as Japanese Coast Guard vessels, working together to sweep the area where it was most likely that Mims would be spotted.
Land-based P-8 Poseidon aircraft were also involved in the search, using visual and electronic scans in a concentrated attempt to locate the missing sailor. Three days later, the search was suspended and it was presumed that Mims was tragically lost at sea.
A memorial service was to be held aboard the Shiloh, and Mims' family had already been notified of their son's status by the Department of the Navy.
But his shipmates never gave up and continued to poke around aboard the Shiloh, according to 7th Fleet public affairs. Just four days later, Mims was found, alive and well on the Ticonderoga-class cruiser, having been missing for a total of seven days and believed dead.
The engine technician had apparently sequestered himself inside the ship's engine room without anybody the wiser — a failure to report in would have been the trigger for a ship-wide search.
Mims has since been airlifted to the USS Ronald Reagan where he'll be medically evaluated and assessed. The investigation launched into Mims' untimely disappearance will now be realigned to look into the circumstances surrounding his finding aboard the Shiloh.
"We are thankful to have found our missing shipmate and appreciate all the hard work of our Sailors and Japanese partners in searching for him," says Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Carrier Strike Group 5, in an official statement. "I am relieved that this sailor's family will not be joining the ranks of Gold Star Families that have sacrificed so much for our country."
This would have been the second loss of a sailor at sea for the US Navy just this month. On June 6th, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Christopher W. Clavin went missing from the USS Normandy, another guided missile cruiser, operating off the coast of North Carolina. In this particular incident, Clavin was actually seen falling overboard by deck personnel, and the cruiser immediately shifted into man-overboard recovery operations to find and rescue the sailor.
This search involved an expansive grid of 6,300 square miles, though it was known where and when Clavin had gone overboard. It was possible that the sailor could have been rendered unconscious in his fall, and had drifted by ocean current far away from the Normandy.
When the search brought back no results, other vessels were called in to assist, including the USS Abraham Lincoln super carrier, fresh from a lengthy overhaul period, a Coast Guard cutter and three guided missile destroyers. However, no trace of the missing sailor was ever found and the search and recovery mission was ended with Clavin declared lost at sea.
It's likely that these two incidents will prove to be an impetus for the Navy to look into enhancing the safety of its sailors while deployed in rougher-than-normal sea states.