Champaign County town rallies to support missing sailor

5:00 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017 Military

Family and community members continue to wait for news about Jacob Drake, the Champaign County sailor who’s missing after the naval ship he was aboard collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore.

The 21-year-old was aboard the USS John S. McCain on Sunday Eastern time when the accident occurred. The 2013 Triad graduate is one of 10 sailors reported missing.

“They said they are expecting to know something within the next 24 hours so please say a lot of prayers today for something positive!” his fiance, Megan Partlow, said on Facebook on Wednesday morning.

The North Lewisburg community has planned a candlelight vigil in support of Drake for Thursday evening.

“We care a great deal about what happens to our residents and people in the community,” North Lewisburg Mayor Cheryl Hollingsworth said.

The patriotic community is proud of its Triad graduates, military members and veterans, Hollingsworth said. The vigil will be held at 8:30 p.m. at the ballpark in North Lewisburg.

“I’m so sorry they’re going through this terrible pain right now,” she said of Drake’s family.

Drake joined the Navy shortly after graduating high school, his sister Veronica Drake said, and looked forward to the end of the destroyer’s mission when he expected to be stationed closer to home.

He serves as an electronics technician 2nd class and received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in July for his efforts during a Mid-Cycle Inspection aboard the McCain, according to a post on a Naval Facebook page.

North Lewisburg resident Lois Hall said she plans to attend the vigil.

“We all should go and show our support to the family and the community,” she said. “To let them know that we are here for them.”

The commander of 7th Fleet, which includes the USS John S. McCain, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, has been dismissed. Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott Swift, released a statement that said Aucoin was relieved, “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.” It was the fourth U.S. Naval accident in the Pacific in nine months.

As of Tuesday, Swift reported that Navy divers had found remains of some of the missing in a flooded compartment in the ship. He also said Malaysians assisting in the search had found a body, but it hadn’t been determined if it was a McCain crew member.

A statement from the 7th Fleet on Wednesday said Navy and Marine Corps divers continue to search flooded compartments of the McCain and the sea-based search is expanding.

The collision ripped a hole in the destroyer’s left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments, including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms.

Drake’s sister told the Springfield News-Sun her brother joined the Navy after graduating from Triad in part because of the possibility for travel. The destroyer is based at the U.S. 7th Fleet’s home port of Yokosuka, Japan, and his sister said he enjoys hiking throughout the country and visiting cat cafes.

“I am slowly losing hope and it hurts to know that I might never get to walk down the aisle and see the love of my life,” Partlow told CBS News.

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