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Michigan mother says son among sailors missing after USS John S. McCain collision

U.S. Navy sailors still missing

MILFORD, Mich. -- A Michigan woman says her son is among the 10 sailors missing after a collision between a warship and an oil tanker in Southeast Asia.

April Brandon told CBS Detroit that she was visited by two officers Monday at her home in Milford in Oakland County. She said her son, Kenneth Smith, is a "great kid" who is among many family members to serve in the Navy.

Brandon said in a Facebook posted that "Kenneth, my baby, is missing at sea. We'll be updated when they are."

My sons ship, the USS McCain, hit an oil rig yesterday at 6am near Singapore. 10 sailors are missing. We've been waiting...

Posted by April Brandon on Monday, August 21, 2017

She also said, "We're all rooting for you Kenneth. The entire country is rooting for you."

We're all rooting for you Kenneth. The entire country is rooting for you.

Posted by April Brandon on Monday, August 21, 2017

Brandon says her son wanted to serve his country. She says the 22-year-old Smith grew up in Novi, Michigan, but moved to Norfolk, Virginia, as a teen with his father.

Brandon says Smith's long-term goal was to develop video games.

A collision early on Monday with an oil tanker tore a large hole in the side of the USS John S. McCain. U.S. Marine Corps. and Navy divers joined the search effort on Tuesday, accessing flooded compartments of the stricken ship, which is now docked at Singapore's Changi Naval Base.

"Equipped with surface supplied air rigs, divers will access sealed compartments located in damaged parts of the ship," the Navy's 7th Fleet said in a statement. "Additionally, they will conduct damage assessments of the hull and flooded areas."

Four sleeping compartments were completely flooded in the incident, reports CBS News' national security correspondent David Martin. One body, still not identified, was found floating in the water, possibly flushed out through the gaping hole.

USS John S. McCain arrives at Changi Naval Base
In this U.S. Navy photo, damage to the portside is visible as the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi Naval Base in Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21, 2017. Getty

"The damage to the ship is quite significant," Commander of the Pacific Fleet Adm. Scott Swift told Martin. "The water tight integrity was compromised. Many of the spaces were flooded."

As CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports, the Navy is calling it an "operational pause." It will give ship commanders a chance to review basic seamanship and teamwork after a series of incidents in the Pacific that have called into question the level of training on U.S. Naval vessels.

The fear is that the gaping hole in the side of yet another U.S. warship could be a sign of a bigger problem in the Pacific. The fatal collisions involving the McCain and the USS Fitzgerald recently followed two other less disastrous accidents, Martin adds.

The cruiser Antietam ran aground in Tokyo Bay and another cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain, collided with a South Korean fishing boat.

Navy orders probe after destroyer collides with merchant vessel

Navy officials have not confirmed details from an initial investigation which pointed to a possible loss of steering, but they've said there were no obvious signs of sabotage or a cyberattack.

If a loss of steering is confirmed, that would help explain why the ship was unable to avoid the much larger tanker, although loss of steering is an emergency Navy crews are trained to deal with, Martin reports.