US sailor from virus-hit carrier dies of COVID-19 complications

The death marks the first coronavirus fatality from the aircraft carrier which reportedly has 900 positive cases.

Guam - Coronavirus
Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt move meals, ready to eat for sailors who have tested negative for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic [Julio Rivera/US Navy handout via AFP]

A United States Navy sailor died on Monday after contracting the coronavirus, marking the first death of a sailor assigned to the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

Late last month, the captain of the aircraft carrier, in a blunt letter, called on Navy leadership for stronger measures to save the lives of his sailors and stop the spread of the coronavirus aboard the huge ship.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors,” Captain Brett Crozier said in the letter.

Captain Brett E. Crozier watches Royal Navy HMS Sutherland as she arrives in Yokosuka
Crozier’s career began in 1992 and has seen him serve around the globe [Mass Communication Specialist 2rd Class Jordan Kirk Johnson/US Navy handout via Reuters]

US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who removed Crozier from his post earlier this month, resigned on April 7 after coming under fire for his handling of the crisis aboard the aircraft carrier. So far, about 585 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered carrier have tested positive for the coronavirus.

About 4,000 sailors have been moved from the carrier to facilities in Guam, where the ship has been docked after the number of cases started increasing.

The Navy, this week, is expected to release the results of an investigation into the events surrounding the letter and officials have not ruled out reinstating Crozier, who is seen as a hero by the ship’s crew, as captain of the carrier.

The sailor, who had been admitted to an intensive care unit in Guam last week, died from coronavirus-related complications, the Navy said in a statement.

This marks the first death of a sailor in the Navy, which so far has had almost 900 sailors test positive for the virus. The sailor is also the first active-duty US service member to die from the virus.

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters News Agency that four additional sailors from the carrier had been taken to hospital to be monitored. The officials said the sailors were in stable condition.

Al Jazeera was unable to verify the claims.

Modly’s resignation highlighted the US military’s struggle to meet increasingly competing priorities: maintaining readiness for conflict and safeguarding service members as the virus spreads globally.

The episode deepened upheaval in Navy leadership. The Navy’s last secretary was fired in November over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct.

The Navy SEAL had won the support of President Donald Trump.