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Navy declares sailor dead two weeks after going overboard from aircraft carrier

Petty Officer 2nd Class Slayton Saldana from the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5 (US Navy/Released)
July 31, 2019

The Navy has declared a 24-year-old sailor dead two weeks after he went missing following an overboard incident on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Slayton Saldana, an aviation electronics technician from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5, went overboard on July 17 in the Arabian Sea and was never found, prompting the Navy to declare him deceased on July 30, according to a Department of Defense (DOD) statement.

The Navy had conducted “extensive” search and rescue efforts for two days following Saldana’s disappearance before calling off the operation on July 19, Military.com reported.

It’s not clear how Saldana went overboard.

Saldana’s name had been released in a DOD statement on July 22 with his status as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN).

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He had joined the Navy in 2015 and served since 2018 with the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5. This was his first deployment.

Saldana’s father, Richard said his family wants answers.

“I just can’t see him doing anything to harm himself or harm his family in any way. Maybe a smaller boat could have picked him up. He was resourceful and intelligent, so there’s a lot of unanswered questions in my eyes,” Richard Saldana told News 4 San Antonio.

The incident is still under investigation.

Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and shipmates of our lost Sailor. During this tragic time, I want to thank the Spanish Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate Méndez Núñez for their assistance in the search operations, and all the Sailors involved in the search for their valiant efforts to find our shipmate.”

The USS Abraham Lincoln deployed from Norfolk, Va. in April and returned to its home port of San Diego “as part of a three-carrier homeport swap with the USS Vinson and USS Stennis.”

Before that, there wasn’t any aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf since the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group left and headed to join the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group in the Mediterranean for training drills.

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When tensions between the U.S. and Iran intensified in May, the ship’s deployment to the 5th Fleet waters was expedited.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the Lincoln left port early because there were a “number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.