The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on an investigation. However, no foul play was suspected.
“This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at 5th Fleet, and for the entire Navy,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said in a video statement.
“Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior. He was a devoted husband and father, and he was a good friend of all of us,” Richardson said.
Stearney was the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command and of the US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, which is responsible for patrolling the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
In recent years, the fleet has dealt with potential threats from pirates and weapons smugglers as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats and Houthi rebels firing missiles at commercial ships from Yemen.
In 2004, the fleet’s surface warships were ordered to hold an “ethics, trust, responsibility and mission stand down” after two sailors were accused of stealing money and other valuables during an inspection of a Singaporean vessel in the Gulf.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Stearney graduated from the University of Notre Dame with an economics degree before joining the US Navy in 1982.
Two years later, he became a pilot and logged more than 4,500 flight hours over the course of his career, which also included stints as a trainer and service in Afghanistan.
In May, Stearney was appointed as commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command and of the Fifth Fleet, positions he occupied until his death.
Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, the deputy commander of Fifth Fleet, has assumed its command, while Vice Admiral James Malloy, a deputy chief of naval operations, is preparing to fly out to Bahrain to take command in the interim.
Further information is expected as the investigation continues.