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General News of Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Source: Washington Post

US Navy Sailor From Ghana Dead After Fall Into Gulf

For the young man from Ghana, the U.S. Navy seemed a dream job, a chance to travel and see the world, his family said. During his nearly 10-year career, Theophilus Kwaku Ansong of Bristow was stationed all across his new country -- Texas, Illinois, Virginia -- when not at sea.

Last week, while in the Gulf of Aden, he disappeared when he fell into the water, Navy officials said. On the morning of Feb. 4, Ansong, a 34-year-old petty officer first class, was thrown from a 36-foot rigid hull inflatable boat when it flipped as it was being lowered from the USS San Antonio, which was conducting counter-piracy operations.

Two other sailors also fell into the water but were rescued and suffered no injuries. A 24-hour search and rescue mission failed to locate Ansong, officials said, and the Prince William County resident has been classified as deceased.

Despite the classification, his father, Nelson Ansong, said yesterday that he has "faith in God that he might be alive somewhere."

"I just want to know exactly what happened," said Nelson Ansong, also of Bristow. "And if he's dead, I want to know what happened. I need to see his body."

In a news release, the Navy said that the San Antonio was "preparing to conduct routine personnel transfers to another U.S. ship operating in the Gulf of Aden. While operations at sea have inherent risks that demand scrutiny, the Navy has extensive safety procedures. . . . Every effort was made to find Ansong, and a thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of this accident."

Ansong was a natural leader who was quick with a smile and "very good and quiet and nice to everyone," his father said. The oldest of six boys, Theophilus Ansong immigrated to the United States from Ghana about 12 years ago and found his calling in the Navy, his father said. His awards included a Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Medal and a Pistol Marksmanship Medal.

"He wanted to serve his country," Nelson Ansong said. "He was a leader, you know."

To his younger brother, Dillon Gyamena, a 19-year-old sophomore at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Ansong was a role model and an inspiration who taught him the benefit of hard work. When they were both home together, Ansong would give Gyamena thrilling rides aboard his beloved Kawasaki sports bike.

"When I was slacking at school and getting in trouble, he said, 'Oh, you need to stay in school. You need to stop getting in trouble. It's not going to help you in life,' " Gyamena said. "That straightened me out. He directed me on the right path, and I thanked him for that."