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CHERRY HILL - The grieving father of a sailor who died in a collision involving the USS John S. McCain has expressed his gratitude to crew members and others who helped after the accident.

Darryl Smith, a Cherry Hill resident, also thanked "all those who have extended their condolences, sympathy and prayers during this very difficult time."

In a statement released by the Navy, the father described his 22-year-old son, Kenneth A. Smith, as "a great young man, son and sailor."

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"He truly loved his family, the Navy, and his shipmates," the elder Smith said on his family's behalf,

Kenneth Smith, a 2013 graduate of Cherry Hill High School East, was the third generation of his family to serve in the Navy. He held the rank of electronics technician 3rd class.

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"As we mourn Kenneth, we would like to recognize and thank so many people for their efforts and support, especially the brave crew of USS John S. McCain, and all the search and rescue personnel who are still hard at work with a difficult task," the father said.

The Navy on Friday announced the recovery of a second victim of the crash, 26-year-old Dustin L. Doyon of Connecticut.

Eight others were still missing as divers searched flooded compartments of the damaged guided-missile destroyer.

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The sailor's mother, April Brandon of Milford, Mich., expressed concern for the missing sailors and their families in a Facebook post.

"Please keep hope or prayers for Kenny's missing mates," she wrote Friday.

"The families of these service people are in my every waking thought," the mother said. "I'm wishing fervently for your brave sailors, as is our entire nation."

The McCain collided before dawn Monday with a Liberian-flagged oil tanker off the coast of Malaysia. The vessels were near the start of a sea lane through the busy Singapore Strait.

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There was no immediate explanation for the collision.

Kenneth Smith grew up in Michigan and  Virginia before moving to Cherry Hill during his high school years.

He was in the fourth year of a seven-year commitment and had considered making a career out of the Navy, according to Brandon.

Darryl Smith, a Lockheed Martin employee, also expressed appreciation to Cherry Hill Township, its police department and the Navy "for their support and assistance."

"As you can imagine, this is a very difficult time for our family and I respectfully request that you allow us to grieve in private," Smith said.

Jim Walsh; (856) 486-2646; jwalsh@gannettnj.com 

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