NORFOLK, VA. – The Navy ended its search of the Atlantic Ocean Monday for a sailor reported missing a day earlier but was still searching the ship where he was last seen. The Navy said it was not ready to consider him lost at sea.
Petty Officer 1st Class Shaun Dale failed to appear at a roll call 10 a.m. Sunday aboard the USS Nassau (search), and a search of the 833-foot amphibious assault ship and the Atlantic waters began.
Second Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis said Monday that the USS Nassau has resumed course for North Carolina, where it was scheduled to disembark its contingent of Marines from Camp Lejeune (search).
"The sea portion of the search has ended," Duplessis said. "We are continuing to search on board, and the sailor remains in a 'missing' status.
"Hopefully, he will turn up," Duplessis said.
Just days earlier, another sailor fell overboard from the same ship and is presumed dead.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Dwayne Williams, 23, of Philadelphia, tripped and fell from the Nassau Friday while chasing a football about 900 miles off the Virginia coast, officials said. The Navy had ended its search Sunday without finding Williams' body.
Duplessis said he did not know how often sailors are lost at sea or how unusual it might be for two sailors to go missing from the same ship in such a short time.
According to statistics from the Naval Safety Center, four sailors had died in what the service calls "mishaps afloat" from October through May 21. During the previous federal fiscal year, five sailors died in such incidents.
Still, the loss of Williams and disappearance of Dale was taking a toll on their shipmates.
"It's devastating to us," Capt. Terry O'Brien said Monday.
"We made it through the war successfully," said O'Brien, commander of the amphibious ready group that includes the Nassau and two other ships. "Coming back home after a successful nine months deployment and then have this happen. But we've done everything we can. We did an exhaustive search for both sailors."
O'Brien said that as soon as the ship's captain, Capt. Russell Tjepkema, was informed that Dale was missing, the ship "turned immediately around."
O'Brien said it was possible Dale had been injured or incapacitated and was still on the ship.
O'Brien said that when Williams fell overboard, the ship's crew responded quickly.
"Something was thrown to him immediately," he said. "There was smoke and a life ring in the water within a minute when he went over the side. A boat was on that position within four to five minutes and we had a helicopter airborne within 10."
Lt. Cmdr. Dave Werner, spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet, said Dale listed a home address as Newport News, Va. Dale's family had been notified of the search, Werner said.
Williams' mother, Betty Williams, wanted more information from military officials.
"I'm not satisfied with the way the military handled telling me how he had passed. It wasn't done in a respectable way," she said. "They (are) making it sound like he was up on top of the deck messing around."
The Nassau, delayed by a few hours by the search for the two sailors, was expected to return to its home port of Norfolk later in the week.