The parents of a sailor who died by suicide while on board the USS George Washington – one of the seven crew members who have died in the past year, including four by suicide – on Wednesday blasted the Navy’s response to the crisis as “ridiculous.”
John Sandor and Mary Graft, the parents of Master at Arms Seaman Recruit Xavier Hunter Mitchell Sandor, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day” that their son did not provide much detail about the conditions on the carrier but said the experience was “awful.”
“People shouldn’t have to live like this,” John Sandor said his son told him, adding that Xavier would call them from his car and that there was a lack of hot water with which to take a shower.
Since Monday, more than 200 sailors have been moved from the carrier to a nearby Navy facility after multiple deaths by suicide among the crew, including three in less than one week in April, the Navy said. The deaths have occurred amid an overhaul process and years-long refueling of the carrier at a shipyard in Newport News in Virginia. The Navy has opened an investigation into the command climate and culture on board the Nimitz-class carrier.
“He loved his job. He did his 12-hour shifts. And how do you sleep on an aircraft carrier with jackhammering and smoke and smells during the day? So, he would sleep in his car,” John Sandor said about his son, who was 19. “It is just awful. No sailor should even have been living on that ship in those conditions.”
John Sandor later said, “Knowing what was going on with the crew before him, this could have happened a long time ago and my son would still be alive. I don’t know why it took so long for the Navy to act on it. They had to wait until the seventh to actually make changes? It’s ridiculous.”
CNN reached out to the Navy for comment on Wednesday.
Capt. Brent Gaut, commanding officer of the carrier, made the decision to allow sailors living on board the ship to move to other accommodations, according to a statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic. Although the carrier does not have its full complement of approximately 5,000 sailors, the ship still has about 2,700 sailors working aboard during the overhaul process. About 420 sailors live on board the ship during its overhaul.
The ship’s command is working to identify sailors who could “benefit from and desire the support services and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs” that are available on local Navy facilities. The Navy is in the process of setting up “temporary accommodations” for these sailors, according to an earlier statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Results from the Navy’s investigation into the deaths are expected this week, Adm. John Meier, commander of US Naval Air Force Atlantic, told reporters on Tuesday.
“We’ve assigned an investigating officer to look into that and to really to look into the proximate cause. Was there an immediate trigger? Was there a linkage between those events? I expect that to report out this week, and I won’t presuppose the outcome of that report,” Meier said.
The investigation is one of two the US Navy is conducting. The second investigation, Meier also said, has a “much broader scope” and focuses on “command climate, command culture.”
In response to the three suicides in April, the Navy added resources to the ship, including a “ship psychologist,” “resiliency counselors,” and “a 13-person sprint team, which is a special intervention team for instances like this,” Meier said.
Editor’s Note: If you or a loved one have contemplated suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741.