Inside the US Navy warship crisis as seven sailors are found dead

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SEVEN sailors who were assigned to the USS George Washington have been found dead in a crisis that gripped the US Navy.

Three were found dead in the space of a week earlier this month.

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Mika’il Sharp was found dead on April 9Credit: US Navy/Natalie Jefferson
Natasha Huffman, 23, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class, was found dead in Hampton, Virginia on April 10

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Natasha Huffman, 23, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class, was found dead in Hampton, Virginia on April 10Credit: Facebook

Retail Service Specialist 3rd The Mika’il Sharp class was found dead off base in Portsmouth, Virginia on April 9.

His mother Natalie Jefferson said he was “the life of the party”.

She told NBC, “I never thought it would hit so close to home like this.”

He followed in his great-grandfather’s footsteps by joining the Navy.

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Jefferson revealed that he plans to buy a house and start a family.

A day later, electrician in interior communication 3rd Natasha Huffman, 23, was found dead in Hampton, Virginia.

Her mother Kathleen Krull said, “She had a heart of gold and always stood up for the underdog.”

Huffman’s grieving boyfriend, Will Maher, called his partner “the best friend and kindred spirit.”

In a moving message, he said: ‘I don’t think Tasha has realized how many lives she has touched.

Coroners confirmed that Sharp and Huffman died by suicide.

Doctors found Xavier Hunter Mitchell-Sandor, a rookie sailor master-at-arms, unresponsive a few days later.

He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead on April 15.

He had enlisted in the Navy in August after training in San Antonio, Texas, according to USNI News.

His death is believed to be an apparent suicide.

Navy officials said the deaths do not appear to be related, but an investigation is ongoing.

Four deaths were reported in 2021.

Lieutenant Cmdr. Robert Myers of Naval Air Force Atlantic said: “We can confirm seven total deaths of service members assigned to USS George Washington over the past 12 months – 4 in 2021 and 3 in 2022.

“The circumstances surrounding these incidents vary and it is premature to make assumptions as some incidents are still under investigation.”

The USS George Washington is currently at Newport News undergoing a complex overhaul.

But, the ship was docked in port in 2017.

Maintenance engineers were forced to carry out unexpected repairs and the Covid-19 pandemic had a major impact on its schedule.

The ship should be able to sail for another 25 years after the repairs are completed.

When the ship is docked, conditions are believed to be cramped.

One of the ship’s crew told NBC: ‘Looks like Big Navy left us dry. Nobody cares.”

Sailors told the Navy Times they had to travel miles between their car and the ship.

Some think they’ve become “little more than glorified paint crushers.”

‘GLORIFIED PAINT CUTTERS’

An anonymous sailor told the outlet: ‘This is not a place for rookie sailors, where you’re sold to a recruiter and thrown on this ship where things don’t even work.’

Russell Smith, who is the Master Chief Petty Officer, was questioned by sailors.

One would have asked about the living conditions on board.

According to audio files heard by NBC, Smith apparently replied, “I think we probably could have done better to manage your expectations by coming here.”

He added: ‘What you don’t do is sleep in a burrow like a Marine might.

“What you do is go home at night, most nights.”

This is not the first crisis to rock the navy as three sailors assigned to the USS George HW Bush committed suicide in September 2019.

James Shelton, Chief Electronics Technician, Airman Ethan Stuart, and Aviation Ordnanceman 1st The Vincent Forline class has been identified as the sailors.

They were found dead a few days apart.

Captain Sean Bailey, the ship’s commanding officer, confirmed the deaths with a “heavy heart” online.

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He said: “Now is the time to come together as a crew and as a family to grieve, support each other and care for those in need.

“We need all hands to engage by offering your suggestions and ideas on how we can work together to prevent another suicide. I want to reiterate that there is never any stigma or repercussion to asking for help.”

Department of Defense data from 2020 revealed that 580 service members died by suicide, 16% more than in 2019.

Xavier Hunter Mitchell-Sandor (left) was found unresponsive by medics on April 15 – just days after Huffman

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Xavier Hunter Mitchell-Sandor (left) was found unresponsive by medics on April 15 – just days after HuffmanCredit: Facebook
The USS George Washington is undergoing maintenance in Virginia and its repair schedule has been thrown off course by Covid and delays (stock photo)

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The USS George Washington is undergoing maintenance in Virginia and its repair schedule has been thrown off course by Covid and delays (stock photo)Credit: AFP

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