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One Sailor Falls Overboard, One Missing

The Navy calls off search for Iraq war veteran 900 miles off Virginia. The hunt for a second man from the same ship is underway.

May 26, 2003|From Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. — A sailor returning from the war in Iraq was presumed dead after falling from his ship into the Atlantic Ocean about 900 miles off the Virginia coast, and a search was underway Sunday for a second sailor missing from the same vessel, officials said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Shaun Dale was the focus of an air and sea search after he was reported missing Sunday morning aboard the amphibious assault ship Nassau, Lt. Cmdr. Dave Werner, spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet, said in a telephone interview.

A search was also being conducted aboard the 833-foot ship, which has a crew of 964 and is transporting 1,900 Marines to North Carolina, then heading to its home port of Norfolk.

Asked whether Dale could be onboard, Werner said, "It's a very large ship and they are actively searching inside the ship."

On Friday, Petty Officer 3rd Class Dwayne Williams, 23, of Philadelphia fell from the Nassau while chasing a football.

Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis, a spokesman for the Navy's 2nd Fleet, confirmed Sunday that the Navy had ended its search and that Williams' body had not been recovered. Williams had been in the Navy for nearly four years.

Capt. Russell Tjepkema said Williams was wearing coveralls and boots, which would have weighed him down, and did not have a lifejacket. He told CNN that the crew threw Williams a float and sent a rescue boat within five minutes. Rescuers found the float and searched for Williams until it became too dark to continue, he said.

Capt. Terry O'Brien said it was possible the other missing sailor had been injured or incapacitated and was still on the ship.

The Nassau reversed its heading and searched for Dale, as did several aircraft. The search involved helicopters from the Nassau and a fixed-wing C-130 Coast Guard search and rescue aircraft.

"Multiple searches have found nothing," Werner said.

Werner said the seas were swelling 5 to 7 feet and were about 70 degrees.

The Nassau is scheduled to drop off the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force in North Carolina and return to Norfolk on Thursday, Duplessis said.

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