Published: Wed, June 21, 2017
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

Delay in reporting of deadly US destroyer collision raises questions

Navy Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet forward deployed in Japan, described the extent of the incident during a press conference on June 18, 2017, after which the Fitzgerald had returned to Yokosuka Harbor under its own power.

The U.S. Navy and Japanese coast guard reported seven missing Navy sailors and at two -up till now- were injured after a U.S. battleship collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan on Saturday's dawn.

Tetsuya Tanaka, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the crew of the Philippine ship, the ACX Crystal, first reported the collision at 2:25 a.m., saying that the collision had just occurred, so the Coast Guard had at first estimated it to have happened around 2:20 a.m.

U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin said USS Fitzgerald experienced extensive damage and flooding after a collision with ACX Crystal at about 56 nautical miles off the coast of Honshu, Japan.

According to maritime rules, vessels are supposed to give way to ships on their starboard side - which is where the damage to the destroyer is - sparking questions over whether the U.S. ship could have been at fault. Although the collision occurred in Japanese waters, global maritime rules, could allow the US Navy to claim some authority over the investigations.

The remains of seven USS Fitzgerald sailors have been recovered, according to a statement from the Navy.

The bow of a 30,000 ton container ship rammed the 10,000 ton USS Fitzgerald. "Under my authority, I am initiating a JAGMAN investigation into this collision, and I will appoint a flag officer to lead that investigation". "I express my heartfelt solidarity to America at this hard time".

Japanese coastguard investigators have been interviewing the Filipino crew of the cargo ship ACX Crystal, and hope to directly hear accounts of sailors aboard the much-smaller U.S. destroyer. Multiple investigations have been announced by the U.S. Navy and the Japanese Coast Guard. "They are known as the 'Fighting Fitz, ' and the crew lived up to that name".

"The water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn't a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea".

While photos showed serious damage above the waterline, the container ship also did severe damage below it. Braniff said Rehm and her daughter, Erin, were soul mates.

Japanese authorities were looking into the possibility of "endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence", Japanese media reported, but it was not clear whether that might apply to either or both of the vessels. The damage indicates that the Fitzgerald was hit on its right side, while the Crystal was damaged on its left side, suggesting they were traveling in the same direction. The 24-year-old sailor, of Halethorpe, Maryland, followed in his father's footsteps and was quickly rising in the ranks, said Darrold Martin, who referred to his son as his best friend.

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