Published: Fri, August 18, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

USS Fitzgerald Commander Dismissed Over Deadly June Collision

USS Fitzgerald Commander Dismissed Over Deadly June Collision

Three senior Navy officers have been removed from command pending discipline over the collision of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and a Philippine cargo ship in June.

Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are still under way into how the Fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer, and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17. Rehm's father says his son's shipmates reported the 37-year-old helped save sailors and died trying to save more. Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Douglass of San Diego, and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan of Chula Vista were among the victims. Benson served as commanding officer on the Fitzgerald while Babbits served as executive officer. Bryce Benson, was also injured and needed to be rescued.

The admiral of the 7th Fleet felt that "serious mistakes were made by the crew" of the Fitzgerald during the June collision with a Philippine container ship that led to the death of seven sailors, according to Admiral William Moran, the vice chief of naval operations.

It's still unclear why the two huge ships didn't see and avoid each other - that is subject to another investigation - given modern radar and other sophisticated tracking marine gear, especially on the warship.

Moran added that the commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet, Adm. Joseph Aucoin, "has notified them of his intent" to detach them for cause a move likely to occur during their non-judicial punishment process, scheduled to take place Friday.

Nearly a dozen sailors, including those who critically stood watch in the ship's bridge, will face discipline, and the majority of the punishments will be announced Friday, Moran said.

Seconds after impact, sailors jolted awake in Berthing 2 yelled "water on deck" and "get out", according to a 41-page report on the deadly incident released by the Navy.

While the final investigation into the collision is ongoing, Moran said: "We do not have to have the investigation complete to start the process".

The sailors tied themselves together with a belt and rescued Benson, who was hanging from the side of the ship.

One of the sailors lost in the collision was Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm, Jr., of Elyria.

The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald's waterline.

The report also contains a number of pictures and drawings detailing the damage sustained by the USS Fitzgerald during the collision. Of the 35 remaining Sailors in Berthing 2, 28 escaped the flooding.

"By the time the third sailor to leave arrived at the ladder, the water was already waist deep", the report said.

"Lockers were floating past him, .at one point he was pinned between the lockers and the ceiling of Berthing 2, but was able to reach for a pipe in the ceiling to pull himself free", the report said.

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