Navy report: Errors led to crash that killed Champaign County sailor

1:22 p.m Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 Military
Jacob Drake, 21, of Champaign County, is a 2013 graduate of Triad High School, Drake is among the sailors missing on the Navy’s USS McCain. FAMILY PHOTO

The Navy placed partial blame on a ship collision that killed 10 sailors — including one from Champaign County — on “poor seamanship” and a “failure to follow safe navigational practices,” a U.S. Fleet Forces Command report concluded.

Petty Officer 2nd class Jacob Drake, a Triad High School graduate, was killed in the collision. The U.S.S. John McCain collided with a merchant ship in the South China Sea on Aug. 21. Drake served as an electronics technician on the ship.

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Drake’s sister and fiancee declined to comment Friday on the crash report.

The Navy also released a report on the June collision involving U.S.S Fitzgerald and also found that errors made by that crew were partially to blame for the crash. An Ohio Sailor, Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, was killed in that collision.

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

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The Navy report concluded a degradation of watch team performance and an erosion of readiness, planning and safety practices contributed to the maritime crashes. Navy investigators added a “can-do” culture undermined basic watch standing and safety standards, the report says.

The investigation also noted the demands of U.S warships stretched thin by commitments in the Western Pacific and the inadequacy of headquarters staff to identify and assess risks at sea.

The mishaps were among four reported involving U.S. warships in the Pacific this year, investigators noted.

Military.com, a website that covers the armed forces, reports that some service members could be charged with crimes in connection with the accidents.

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Drake has been honored multiple times by the community, including with candlelight vigils, an escort to the funeral home and a funeral that many veterans attended. The family has said they appreciate the support shown.

His sister, Veronica Drake, previously described her older brother as outgoing but didn’t talk often with her about his job. Instead, he regularly asked for updates about his family in North Lewisburg and in particular for photos of their several cats.

They last spoke just a few days before Drake went missing.

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

“When I think of Jake, I just think of when he’d have all his friends over and they’d be sitting in the living room with their computers, taking stuff apart,” Veronica Drake has said. “It’s little things like that. He always had a lot of friends and a lot of people that care about him.”

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