(Trends Wide) — The parents of a sailor who took his own life aboard the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, one of seven crew members to lose their lives in the past year, including four by suicide, criticized the Navy’s response on Wednesday. to the crisis, describing it as “ridiculous”.
John Sandor and Mary Graft, the parents of master-at-arms seaman recruit Xavier Hunter Mitchell Sandor, told Trends Wide’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day” that their son didn’t elaborate on conditions on the carrier, but said the experience was “awful”.
John Sandor recounted that his son told him “people shouldn’t have to live like this,” adding that Xavier called them from his car and that there was no hot water for showers.
Since Monday, more than 200 sailors have been relocated from the aircraft carrier to a nearby Navy facility after multiple suicide deaths among the crew, including three in less than a week in April, the Navy said. The deaths come amid a years-long overhaul and refueling process for the aircraft carrier at a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. The Navy launched an investigation into the climate and culture of command aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
“He loved his job. He worked his 12-hour shifts. And how do you sleep on an aircraft carrier with jackhammers and smoke and smells during the day? So he slept in his car,” John Sandor said of his son, who had 19 years. “It’s just horrible. No sailor should have lived on that ship in those conditions.”
John Sandor later said, “Knowing what was going on with the crew before him, this could have been a long time ago and my son would still be alive. I don’t know why the Navy took so long to act. Did they have to wait until the seventh death to make changes? It’s ridiculous.”
Trends Wide contacted the Navy for comment on Wednesday.
Capt. Brent Gaut, the carrier’s commanding officer, made the decision to allow sailors living aboard the ship to move to other accommodations, according to a statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Although the carrier is not fully staffed with approximately 5,000 sailors, the ship still has some 2,700 sailors working on board during the renovation process. Some 420 sailors live on board the ship during this period.
The ship’s command is working to identify sailors who could “benefit and desire the support services and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs” that are available at local Navy facilities. The Navy is in the process of setting up “temporary accommodations” for these sailors, according to an earlier statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Results of the Navy’s investigation into the deaths are expected this week, Adm. John Meier, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, told reporters Tuesday.
“We assigned an investigating officer to look into that and to really look into the proximate cause. Was there an immediate trigger? Was there a relationship between those events? I expect the report to come out this week, and I’m not going to presuppose their conclusions.” Meier said.
The investigation is one of two being conducted by the US Navy. The second investigation, Meier also said, is “much broader in scope” and focuses on “command climate, command culture.”
In response to the three suicides in April, the Navy added resources to the ship, including a “ship psychologist,” “resilience counselors” and “a 13-person sprint team, which is a special intervention team for cases like this one,” Meier said.
Publisher’s note: If you or a loved one has contemplated suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 in the United States or text “talk” to 741741 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
For assistance outside the US, the International Association for Suicide Prevention provides a global directory of resources and international hotlines. You can also turn to Befrienders Worldwide.
See here the lines of attention and prevention of suicide in Latin America and Spain.