Last Known Activity The sailors were part of an eight-member team from the destroyer Peterson who had boarded the ship on Sunday after American officials became suspicious that it was carrying oil from Iraq in violation of United Nations sanctions.
Pentagon officials said the team discovered tanks carrying 1,700 metric tons of oil hidden under bags of grain. The ship, the Samra, which was registered in the United Arab Emirates, was so overloaded that it was already riding dangerously low in the water when the Peterson first spotted it, officials said.
The Samra, which was at anchor at the time not far from the Iraqi coastline, sank in high seas just 30 minutes after the sailors boarded it, the officials said.
There were no sounds of explosions or gunfire on the Samra before it began to sink, indicating that the crew had not attempted to resist the inspection, officials said.
SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters dispatched from the Peterson were able to rescue 6 American sailors and 10 members of the Samra's 14-member Iraqi crew not long after the ship went under. The body of one Iraqi sailor was also recovered, while three remaining crew members from the Samra were missing..
The Peterson and its two helicopters, which are part of the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, were joined in the search by two other American warships, four additional helicopters and a PC-3 Orion patrol plane. In addition, an American supply ship and an Australian warship, the Sydney, were involved.
The missing American sailors were identified as Petty Officer First Class Vincent E. Parker, 38, of Preston, Miss., and Petty Officer Third Class Benjamin Alan Johnson, 21, of Rochester.