August 18, 2017
WASHINGTON- The US Navy removed the commanding officer and other top personnel of the Aegis-class destroyer USS Fitzgerald from their duties on Thursday over a deadly collision with a Philippine-registered container ship off central Japan in June.
On the cause of the accident, which left seven crewmen of the destroyer dead, Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of naval operations, told a news conference, "We don't know yet whether the Fitzgerald is solely responsible," while noting that mistakes were made by crew members of the ship.
According to the Navy, the destroyer's commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, and the executive officer, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, are among those who were relieved of their duties. About 10 crew members who were standing watch during the accident were punished.
The Fitzgerald, which belongs to the Navy's 7th Fleet, was traveling at 20 knots soon before the accident, according to Moran. Crewmen on the ship's bridge neglected to maintain situational awareness and were unable to respond quickly to avert a collision when they spotted the oncoming container vessel, he said.
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, feels he has "plenty of evidence to determine that serious mistakes were made by members of the crew," although the investigation is not complete yet, Moran said.
On the removal of the top personnel of the destroyer, he said the Navy has "lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead in those positions."
The Navy plans to reveal the cause of the collision after the completion of the ongoing investigation into the accident, which is expected to take weeks.
In the small hours of June 17, the 8,315-ton Fitzgerald collided with the 29,060-ton ACX Crystal container vessel in the Pacific off Japan's Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture. The impact of the collision left a hole on the destroyer's starboard side, leaving some compartments of the ship flooded. Jiji Press
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