- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

NORFOLK — The Navy has stopped searching the USS Nassau for a crew member reported missing, but sailors continue to keep an eye out for him, a Navy spokesman said yesterday.

“There’s not an active search where we’re going space by space [on the ship], but everyone knows the sailor is missing and they’re on the lookout,” 2nd Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Ernest Duplessis said.

“We’ve searched space by space several times,” Cmdr. Duplessis said. “Now it’s just a matter of being alert and understanding that he is missing.”

A search of the Atlantic Ocean and the 833-foot amphibious assault ship began Sunday morning when Petty Officer 1st Class Shaun Dale did not appear at roll call.

The ship then resumed course for North Carolina, where it arrived Monday to drop off its contingent of Marines from Camp Lejeune. It is scheduled to return to its home port in Norfolk tomorrow.

Lt. Cmdr. Dave Werner, spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet, said Petty Officer Dale listed a home address as Newport News, and that his family had been notified of the search.

Days earlier, another sailor had fallen overboard from the ship. Petty Officer 3rd Class Dwayne Williams, 23, is presumed dead.

Petty Officer Williams, of Philadelphia, tripped and fell from the Nassau on Friday while chasing a football, officials said. The ship was about 900 miles off the Virginia coast at the time. The Navy ended its unsuccessful search Sunday.

Petty Officer Williams’ mother and brother said yesterday that they have accepted what the Navy had told them, but they wanted to meet the ship in Norfolk to talk to officials.

“We wanted to sit down with some of the people who were actually there so we can hear their side of the story … people who actually witnessed the incident,” Curtis Williams, Petty Officer Williams’ brother, told CBS’ “The Early Show.”

He said he thought it was strange that two sailors would go missing within such a short period. “We still have a lot of questions about the exact details about everything,” he said.

The sailor’s mother and brother were visiting relatives in Kinston, N.C., where Petty Officer Williams was born.

Betty Williams said she believed that the Navy did try to rescue her son. “They tried, that’s all I know,” she said.

Cmdr. 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 at almost the same time.

According to statistics from the Naval Safety Center, four sailors died in what the service calls “mishaps afloat” between October and May 21. During the previous federal fiscal year, five sailors died in such circumstances.

Petty Officer Williams’ loss and Petty Officer Dale’s disappearance were wrenching for their shipmates.

“It’s devastating to us,” Capt. Terry O’Brien said Monday on NBC’s “Today” show.

“We made it through the war successfully,” said Capt. 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.”

Capt. O’Brien said it was possible Petty Officer Dale had been injured or incapacitated and was still on the ship.

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