Sailor Lost Overboard Marks Second Accident in Just Over a Year for Fleet

The recent death of a United States Navy sailor who fell overboard in the Baltic Sea on the USS Arleigh Burke marks the second accident the Navy's U.S. 6th Fleet had seen in just over a year.

In a press release on its website on Thursday, the Navy's 6th Fleet Public Affairs Office identified the sailor as 19-year-old "North Carolina native Seaman Recruit David L. Spearman." The press release also said that Spearman, who fell overboard on August 1, reported to the ship earlier this year after completing training at the "Surface Warfare Engineering School Command in Great Lakes, Ill."

Stars and Stripes reported that the Navy's 6th Fleet experienced another death last July. According to the newspaper, Petty Officer 1st Class Robin Nicole Collins died while on duty on July 18. While limited information was released about her death, a Naval Safety Center mishap report obtained by the the Navy Times said that Collins died after a "shelter roof and chimney collapsed during heavy weather."

USS Arleigh Burke
The recent death of a United States Navy sailor who fell overboard in the Baltic Sea on the USS Arleigh Burke marks the second accident the Navy's U.S. 6th Fleet had seen in just over a year. Above, the USS Arleigh Burke plows through the waters on March 13, 2003, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Mark Wilson/Getty

"Due to operational security, we are not able to release the location or nature of the operation," 6th Fleet spokesperson Commander Richlyn Ivey told the Navy Times last September.

While speaking with Newsweek on Friday, Ivey said that the two deaths had no relation, and that Collins and Spearman were not stationed on the same ship within the 6th Fleet. Ivey also told Newsweek that Collins was assigned to the 6th Fleet's Command headquarters staff while Spearman was assigned to the USS Arleigh Burke, which is controlled by Task Force 65 and is commanded by the 6th Fleet.

The 6th Fleet's website says that its area of responsibility "covers approximately half of the Atlantic Ocean, from the Arctic Ocean to the coast of Antarctica, as well as the Adriatic, Baltic, Barents, Black, Caspian, Mediterranean, and North Seas," and that it "covers more than 20 million square nautical miles of ocean, touches three continents and encompasses more than 67 percent of the Earth's coastline, 30 percent of its landmass, and nearly 30 percent of the world's population."

According to the Times-News in Henderson County, North Carolina, Spearman's body has not yet been recovered by Navy officials. In an email sent to the newspaper, Ivey said that one of the USS Arleigh Burke's lookouts noticed a body in the water near the ship on Monday.

"The ship conducted man overboard procedures. The specific details of incident are under investigation," Ivey told the Times-News.

In a statement following Spearman's death, USS Arleigh Burke Commanding Officer Commander Pete Flynn said, "This bright, young man made an oversized positive impact on Arleigh Burke. My entire crew's thoughts and prayers are with Seaman Recruit Spearman's family and friends. We offer our most sincere condolences for their loss. Thank you to the Swedish and German navies, the U.S. Air Force, and the Sailors from Arleigh Burke for their extensive efforts to search for our shipmate."