UPDATE: Navy identifies missing New Jersey sailor

 Selfie of Kenneth Smith. (Courtesy Arianna Cortez)

Selfie of Kenneth Smith. (Courtesy Arianna Cortez)

Update: Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, 11:50 a.m.

The U.S. Navy has identified one sailor who died and nine others who remain missing after the USS John McCain collided with an oil tanker Monday near Singapore.

Divers recovered the remains of Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

On Wednesday, his friends said they hoped for the best, but they feared the worst.

Arianna Cortez dated Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth Smith who was aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer when the collision occurred early Monday.

“He’s very very patriotic and very down to earth kind of person,” Cortez said of Smith, who has since been identified.

Even though she hasdn’t talked to him for about a year, Cortez took the news of Smith’s disappearance hard.

“When I first found out he was one of the missing, it was very hard, I cried for hours nonstop,” she said. “I’m keeping my hopes up, I’m following the news and just really hope that he’s OK.”

Cortez said she had been in contact with Smith’s mother, April Brandon, who lives in Michigan.

Brandon described her son Smith, as a third-generation sailor whose service and character make their family proud.

She said Smith joined the Navy out of a desire to serve his country but also for the education it provided.

Smith, who works in radar technology, was in the fourth year of a seven-year commitment and had considered a military career like his father. Smith grew up in Novi, Michigan, and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, as a teen with his father. He listed Cherry Hill as his hometown on Facebook.

Brandon said she was visited by two officers Monday at her home in the Oakland County community of Milford. They said he was among the missing, but she said her son is “tough” and held out hope.

Niana Jasso, who said she and her wife were both friends with Smith, recalled him speaking often about wanting to follow the family tradition and enter the Navy.  Smith was funny and had a way of lifting the spirits of those around him, Jasso said.

The crash which left Smith and others dead tore a gaping hole in the McCain’s left rear hull, flooding adjacent compartments including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms.

The sailors still missing are:

Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, 31, of Missouri.
Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, 39, of Texas.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26, of Maryland.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, 21, of Ohio.
Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23, of Maryland.
Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, 28, of New York.
Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, 26, of Connecticut.
Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, 20, of Texas.
Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, 23, of Illinois.

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