CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Republic of Singapore — The United States Navy confirmed Thursday a New Jersey man died after the USS John McCain was struck by an oil tanker.

The Navy said the remains of Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, were found following an 80-hour search of an approximately 2,100-square mile area east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

Smith's are the only remains found so far of the 10 missing sailors.

"On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank all those who have extended their condolences, sympathy and prayers during this very difficult time.Kenneth was a great young man, son, and Sailor. He truly loved his family, the Navy, and his shipmates. I am incredibly proud of his service to our country. He will be greatly missed and I am thankful we had 22 wonderful years together," Kenneth Smith's father Darryl Smith said in a statement to the Daily Tribune newspaper in Michigan and other news outlets.

"As we mourn Kenneth, we would like to recognize and thank so many people for their efforts and support, especially the brave crew of USS John S. McCain, and all the search and rescue personnel who are still hard at work with a difficult task," Darryl Smith said, according to the statement

Smith was identified by his mother, April Brandon, who told NBC Philadelphia she got a visit from Navy officials informing her he was on the ship.

"His father and I couldn't be prouder of our son," Brandon said.

Brandon said Kenneth Smith moved to Cherry Hill when his father, a Naval officer, was transferred to the South Jersey area. He was a member of the Cherry Hill High School East class of 2013.

"Kenneth left a positive mark at Cherry Hill East during the two years he attended. He will be missed. We extend our condolences to Kenneth’s family and friends and will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers. We are grateful for his service to our country," the Cherry Hill School District said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Smith family and Kenneth’s friends during this difficult time. His was a life of service, and he proudly followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a member of the United States Navy," Cherry Hill mayor Chuck Cahn said in a statement.

"While I know there is nothing we can do to erase their heartbreak, the Township will continue to provide whatever resources, comfort and assistance we can to the Smith family in the wake of this tragic loss," Cahn wrote.

The Daily Tribune said a candlelight vigil was held for Kenneth Smith in Milford, Michigan.

Brandon, who lives in Michigan, said Smith graduated from Cherry Hill High School East, according to CBS Philly. She showed a picture from his yearbook, which stated he was a member of the class of 2013.

A representative of the Cherry Hill school district would not confirm Smith as a member of the class.

Congressman Donald Norcross in a statement called Smith "an American hero."

“Kenneth sacrificed so much so that all of us could be safe and our community thanks him for his service as we mourn this terrible loss," Norcross said in a statement.

The 7th Fleet called off its search at sea but said divers will continue to search flooded compartments inside the USS John S. McCain, where some remains have been found. The Navy has not provided specifics.

Still missing are:

  • Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, 31, from Missouri
  • Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, 39, from Texas
  • Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26, from Maryland
  • Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, 21, from Ohio
  • Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23, from Maryland
  • Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, 28, from New York
  • Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, 26, from Connecticut
  • Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, 20, from Texas
  • Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, 23, from Illinois

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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