NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A local Navy aircraft carrier has lost three sailors within days of each other. Now, the rest of USS George Washington's crew is left to carry on in the wake of these sudden and unexpected deaths.
"When you have three deaths, what it does, it raises the anxiety you have among the crew. Because now people are thinking, 'Hey, what's going on? This is another one?'" said Joanne Steen, who is an author, instructor, and speaker on grief, loss, and resilience, with a specialty in military and line-of-duty losses. She is a board-certified counselor and military widow herself.
The US Navy has acknowledged the deaths of three USS George Washington sailors within one week, although it has not been officially stated what happened.
According to Navy Times, Retail Services Specialist 3rd Class Mika'il Sharp was found dead on April 9 in Hampton. The next day, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Natasha Huffman was also found dead, also in Hampton.
Then on April 15, medics rushed to the hospital another sailor who was found unresponsive on board the ship. That sailor also died, but their name has not yet been released.
There is no evidence that the deaths are related, and there have been no reports of workplace accidents or training mishaps.
The Navy is reportedly providing support and counseling to the crew.
"Very often, these folks -- the 20's and 30's -- this may be their first experience with death," said Steen. "And if it's not and there's something traumatic in their background, this will bring it right back again."
Steen said that following a series of sudden, unexpected deaths like this, it is crucial to help the rest of the 2,500-member crew sort through their feelings.
"They may not be showing tears, they may not be crying, but they may be struggling with those thoughts of, 'Wow, this is really hitting close to home,'" she said.
The ship is one year behind schedule at Newport News Shipbuilding for its mid-life complex overhaul and nuclear refueling that began in 2017.
The GW is now scheduled to be completed by December.