Pinckney Sailors Memorialized - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/15/04

Pinckney Sailors Memorialized

Sailors from the USS Pinckney are remembering three of their own. The sailors were killed in a bus crash Friday morning. About one hundred sailors, on two buses, were on their way to a wreath laying ceremony for the man their ship was named after. The lead bus slammed head-on into an oncoming truck, killing the bus driver and two other sailors.

Seventy other sailors were injured, and none of their injuries are believed to be life threatening. The truck driver, 46-year-old Michael Clements, remains in stable condition. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and several state agencies are looking into the cause of the crash.

Several hundred people gathered in Charleston, South Carolina, aboard the USS Pinckney today to remember the sailors killed in Friday's accident. This ship is determined to grow closer after the accident, and that's part of the reason they had this memorial service today to show the people from South Carolina that they appreciate all the help and attention the Pinckney and its crew have gotten in the last three days.

The service drove home the point that these three-- Kip Baker, Alfred Conception and Michael Booker--aren't just anonymous numbers, but part of something each of the speakers agreed is special. "He was all about the Navy, and so happy to be on Pinckney," recalled Seaman Nicholas Sells.

The accident has already served as a catalyst for the entire ship to look inward for support. "We were already close as a unit, but in light of the recent events, I think people are going to grow closer, not just as a crew but as people, as friends," said SM3 Robert Gaunky.

"It's not a ship, it's not a team, it's a family," added crewmate Frank Migliaccio. "The second that it happened, everyone was helping everyone out. People who could walk were helping those that couldn't."

Pinckney's sailors who were there on Highway 17 say it's going to be hard to move on, but they're proud of how everyone reacted. "You get your mind set and you help those individuals that need to be helped, and then you grieve later," said CSC Dwight Mercer. "I cried, after we helped everyone, then I sat down and cried."

Cmdr. Bob Byron, the ship's commanding officer, says their namesake, World War II hero William Pinckney from Beaufort, was an ordinary person doing extraordinary acts, and that's how Pinckney's crew has been. "Our shipmates also excelled in the face of adversity," he said. "There's no doubt they were proud to serve."

The Pinckney will set sail tomorrow for Virginia, where the three sailors will be laid to rest. Only then will the ship head for its home port in San Diego.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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