US sailor dies from coronavirus after captain was fired for expressing concerns

13 April 2020, 20:12

A sailor has died after contracting coronavirus on the US warship the USS Theodore Roosevelt
A sailor has died after contracting coronavirus on the US warship the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

A US sailor on board the coronavirus-stricken warship the USS Theodore Roosevelt has become first the active-duty military member to die of Covid-19, it has been confirmed.

The aircraft carrier has been dealing with an outbreak of Covid-19 on board, with 585 out of 4,860 crew members testing positive.

Eleven days ago, the ship's captain, Brett Crozier, was fired for pressing his concern that the Navy had done too little to safeguard his crew.

He had written a letter on 31 March pleading for help for those on board, which was subsequently released to the US media.

In a statement, the Navy said the sailor tested positive for coronavirus on March 30 and was taken off the ship and placed in "isolation housing" at the US Navy base on Guam.

The ship is currently moored in Guam
The ship is currently moored in Guam. Picture: PA

On April 9, he was found unresponsive during a medical check and was moved to a local hospital's intensive care unit.

His name has not been released until his family are informed.

Four other crew members have also been moved to hospital for their conditions to be monitored.

All are in stable condition and none are in intensive care or on ventilators.

A little over 4,000 crew members have been moved ashore. A number have been kept aboard to attend to the enormous ship's nuclear reactors and other sensitive systems.

The Navy's top officer issued a statement of condolence.

"My deepest sympathy goes out to the family and we pledge our full support to the ship and crew as they continue their fight against the coronavirus," Admiral Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said.

Captain Brett Crozier was fired after expressing concerns for the safety and health of this crew
Captain Brett Crozier was fired after expressing concerns for the safety and health of this crew. Picture: PA

"While our ships, submarines and aircraft are made of steel, sailors are the real strength of our Navy."

The Roosevelt has been in a coronavirus crisis that prompted the Navy's civilian leader, Thomas Modly, to fire the ship's captain on April 2.

Five days later, after having flown to the ship and delivered a speech in which he insulted Capt Crozier and criticised the crew for supporting him, Mr Modly resigned.

He said he felt compelled to remove Capt Crozier from command because he had distributed too widely via email a letter in which he called for more urgent Navy action to prevent a deeper coronavirus crisis aboard his ship.

Capt Crozier's words angered Mr Modly but were seen by others as necessary.

Capt Crozier's letter read: "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our must trusted asset - our sailors.

The letter appeared a short time later in the San Francisco Chronicle and other news media.

Mr Modly said the letter was inappropriate and Capt Crozier had failed to consult sufficiently with his immediate superior before writing it.

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