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Two Maryland natives among 9 missing Navy sailors

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Posted at 11:22 AM, Aug 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 19:03:53-04

The U.S. Navy says two sailors from Maryland are among those missing after a collision between a destroyer and an oil tanker.

Ten sailors went missing after a collision between the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer and Liberian flagged merchant vessel on Aug. 21. 

After more than 80 hours of searching, the U.S. Navy suspended search and rescue efforts on Thursday. They said divers will continue to search flooded compartments inside the USS John S. McCain.

The Navy identified two missing sailors from Maryland. Kevin Sayer Bushell is a 26-year-old Electronics Technician 2nd Class. Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr. is a 23-year-old Information Systems Technician 2nd Class.

Eckels graduated from Manchester Valley High School in 2012. He was also involved with the Carroll County Career and Technology Center's culinary arts program.

Victoria Graham met Eckels during high school.

"It was brand new our sophomore year, so we were the second graduating class, and that meant starting new traditions, really starting camaraderie within our area because there was a rivalry between us and North Carroll," said Graham.

Eckels and Graham embraced the competition and their new allegiance. Manchester Valley High is where they became classmates, teammates, and friends.

“He was always a great member of a team. Whatever was on the front of his shirt whether it was Manchester Valley Mavericks, local co-ed soccer teams, or the United States of America, he felt pride in the service,” Graham said.

And he proudly represented the United States on board the USS John S. McCain..

“A few days ago, we saw that he may have been one of the servicemen who were missing and you just keep thinking no, no, no, and you have everyone praying and the whole community coming together to hope that he wasn't. And when we found out he was one of the ones missing and that there were remains found, your heart breaks into pieces,” said Graham.

Graham felt another blow Thursday after she learned that search and rescue efforts had been suspended.

“Because you don't want to give up hope,” she said.

Graham is still managing to see the positive. Recalling her friend who served his country, traveled the world, and made an impact on his community.

“He was one of the first ones to step onto the field and wear the Mavericks jersey and I think the maverick in and of itself, I mean he was a maverick,” said Graham.

Maverick is the same term used to describe U.S. Senator John McCain, the son and grandson of the ship's namesake.

“They are both mavericks,” said Graham. “He, for lack of a better term, went down with pride and went down with probably the utmost honor and respect that anyone ever could in the sacrifice to their country.”

The incident is still under investigation. This is the fourth time a U.S. warship has been involved in an accident in Asian waters in the last 12 months.

On Thursday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued the below statement:

"The First Lady and I were saddened to learn of the collision of the USS John S. McCain and are heartbroken to hear that two of the missing sailors are Marylanders. Our deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell and Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr. We hope that all Marylanders will join us in lifting their families up in prayer during this time of unfathomable grief."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.