ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Last month, 10 American sailors died when the destroyer U.S.S. McCain collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore. Among the survivors on board was an Albuquerque man.
Daniel Ortiz was not injured in the collision in the Pacific, but his mother was terrified. Guadalupe Chavez says her fears and worries first began when she learned Ortiz enlisted in the U.S. Navy last November.
"For me, it was very difficult," she said." I was in shock and I didn’t ask him anything. He walked away and I started crying."
She said the most difficult part was to find out he was leaving on Dec. 13. On that date 10 years earlier, her eldest son died.
"For me, it was horrible waiting for that day," she said. "Yes, it was Dec. 13. He left that morning."
Before Ortiz left Albuquerque, Chavez said she tried to show no emotion.
"I felt sad, but I didn’t want to show him how I felt because I wanted him to be happy," she said.
After several months of naval school in Chicago, Oritz graduated and deployed to Japan. On Aug. 20, Chavez found out about the deadly accident and was terrified, knowing her son was on board the ship.
"Ten missing without knowing who they are, that’s difficult," she said. "We went four or five hours without knowing anything."
Much to her relief, she found out Ortiz had survived apparently because he was awake when the crash happened.
"He said that that morning he was arriving in Singapore at 5 in the morning and only those 10 stayed asleep, and that’s when Daniel said the accident happened," she said. "And if all of them had been asleep, they would have all been in the same situation."
According to Chavez, Ortiz has suffered psychological trauma from the accident at sea. He quickly sought help. Chavez described what Ortiz had told her about that terrifying morning.
"’The yelling that I heard was all in my head. I thought that I could hear them calling for help, but I couldn’t do anything to help them,’" she said, paraphrasing her son.
Chavez said Ortiz is back at sea in the Pacific and is doing fine.