A North Lewisburg family has asked for support from community members after being told that a 2013 Triad High School graduate is among the 10 sailors officially reported missing after an oil tanker collided with the USS John McCain off the coast of Malaysia.
Jacob Drake’s family was notified that he was missing at 6 a.m. Monday. 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.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the the North Lewisburg Ballpark to pray for Jacob Drake and all the other sailors stationed on the ship. Those who attend have been asked to bring any photos they have and discuss his impact on their life.
Despite the accident, family members didn’t want to believe Jacob Drake could be among those missing, his younger sister said. The destroyer is part of the U.S. forward-deployed naval forces based in Japan.
“We didn’t know until the day after,” Veronica Drake said. “We just kept telling ourselves it couldn’t be Jake.”
The U.S. Navy didn’t respond to a call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.
The collision before Sunday evening Eastern time ripped a hole in the destroyer’s left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments, including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms. Malaysian officials have found one body, but it hasn’t been identified and it’s not clear whether it was one of the crew members.
Veronica Drake described her older brother as an outgoing man who doesn’t talk often with her about his job. Instead he asks for updates about his family in North Lewisburg and in particular for photos of their several cats. She said a Navy chaplain visited the family and delivered the news that Jacob Drake is among the missing.
They last spoke just a few days ago.
“He was, maybe still is hopefully, coming home for leave in November,” Veronica Drake said. “In December he was going to be back in the United States for good.”
He joined the Navy after graduating from Triad in part because of the possibility for travel, she said. The destroyer is based at the 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.
“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 said. “It’s little things like that. He always had a lot of friends and a lot of people that care about him.”
Chris Piper, superintendent at Triad local Schools, said he doesn’t know Drake personally, although several faculty members did. He said the district will continue to offer any assistance it can to the family while they wait for more news.
“We have reached out to his family to express our condolences but have not heard back,” Piper said. “Until that time I can only say that our thoughts and prayers are with his family as the search continues.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, also issued a statement supporting the family.
“Connie and I are thinking of Jacob’s family during this horrible time, and we join Ohioans in praying for Jacob’s well-being and safety,” Brown said. “Service members like Jacob represent the very best of our state, and I’m hopeful the divers searching for these brave sailors can find him and bring him home safely. My office and I offer our full support to the Navy as this search continues.”
The crash was the second major accident in two months involving the Pacific-based 7th Fleet. The Navy has ordered an investigation into its performance and readiness.
Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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