US Navy probes de­stroyer crash

Names of 7 re­leased

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

TOKYO, June 19, (Agen­cies): A probe into the crash be­tween a US navy de­stroyer and a Philip­pine-flagged cargo ship was un­der way Mon­day, as the names of seven Amer­i­can sailors who died were made pub­lic.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were look­ing at how the USS Fitzger­ald came to be holed in the smash in a busy ship­ping lane near its home port.

The con­tainer ship, the 222-me­tre Philip­pine­flagged ACX Crys­tal, made a 180 de­gree turn shortly be­fore the ac­ci­dent, ac­cord­ing to data from the Ma­rine Traf­fic web­site. It was not im­me­di­ately clear what prompted the sharp turn. The US navy and Ja­pan’s coast­guard are con­duct­ing sep­a­rate in­quiries, but will likely be co-op­er­at­ing, a spokesman for Ja­pan’s trans­port safety board told AFP.

Ja­panese coast­guard in­ves­ti­ga­tors will be in­ter­view­ing the Filipino crew of the Ja­panese-owned con­tainer ship, al­though the US has pri­mary ju­ris­dic­tion in in­ves­ti­gat­ing ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing mil­i­tary.

Cit­ing lo­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Ja­pan’s top-sell­ing Yomi­uri news­pa­per said Mon­day that the dam­age on both ships sug­gests they were trav­el­ling in the same di­rec­tion when the crash oc­curred, 56 nau­ti­cal miles south­west of Yoko­suka.

The im­pact tore a huge gash in the Fitzger­ald, send­ing gal­lons of wa­ter flood­ing into the berths where the crew were sleep­ing.

The bod­ies of the sailors, who were aged be­tween 19 and 37, were re­cov­ered by navy divers af­ter their 154-me­tre (500-foot) ves­sel limped into port.

The huge com­mer­cial ves­sel came into Yoko­suka with large scrapes on its bow, but none of its 20 crew were in­jured.



Ja­pan’s coast­guard is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing why it took nearly an hour be­fore the Philip­pine ship re­ported the col­li­sion, a coast­guard spokesman said.

“We had first an­nounced that the col­li­sion oc­curred at 2:20 am, based on the ini­tial re­port from the Philip­pine ship, but we have now changed it to 1:30 am af­ter di­rectly hear­ing from the crew,” the spokesman said.

“We are check­ing what hap­pened dur­ing the time and why the re­port was de­layed,” he added.

There have been around 30 boat crashes over the past decade in the area, in­clud­ing a 2013 in­ci­dent when six Ja­panese crew died af­ter their cargo ship crashed with another ves­sel in the early morn­ing hours, a coast­guard spokesman said.

“That’s con­sid­ered a lot of ac­ci­dents,” he said, adding that many ships pass through the chan­nel in the mid­dle of the night to be on time for morn­ing cargo pick-ups. “There are all kinds of ships nav­i­gat­ing those wa­ters.”

Un­der mar­itime law, the con­tainer ship had an obli­ga­tion to avoid a col­li­sion if it was try­ing to over­take the de­stroyer from be­hind.

But if the con­tainer ves­sel was ap­proach­ing from the US ship’s right side, the de­stroyer had the obli­ga­tion to give way, another Ja­panese coast­guard spokesman said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are sure to put the ves­sels’ track­able move­ments un­der a mi­cro­scope to fig­ure out what set the deadly crash in mo­tion, said Shoji Fu­ji­moto, a mar­itime safety ex­pert at Ja­pan’s Kobe Uni­ver­sity.

On Sun­day, US 7th Fleet com­man­der Vice Ad­mi­ral Joseph Au­coin said the crew would have had lit­tle chance of es­cap­ing the “tremen­dous” amount of wa­ter that gushed into the ship af­ter the ac­ci­dent tore open its side.

Sev­eral other US crew mem­bers were in­jured in the ac­ci­dent and had to be evac­u­ated by air to hospi­tal, in­clud­ing the ves­sel’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer Bryce Ben­son.


He and a cou­ple of other crew mem­bers have since been re­leased from hospi­tal.

Mean­while, the mother of a US Navy sailor said her son kept div­ing to try to save his ship­mates af­ter a col­li­sion at sea un­til their flooded sleep­ing berth be­gan run­ning out of air pock­ets, while other sur­vivors — be­liev­ing their ship was un­der at­tack — hur­ried to man the guns.

Mia Sykes of Raleigh, North Carolina, told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Sun­day that her 19-year-old son, Bray­den Har­den, was knocked out of his bunk by the im­pact, and wa­ter im­me­di­ately be­gan fill­ing the berth, af­ter their de­stroyer, the USS Fitzger­ald, col­lided with a Philip­pine-flagged con­tainer ship four times its size off the Ja­panese coast.

Sykes says her son told her that four men in his berth, in­clud­ing those sleep­ing on bunks above and be­low him died, while three died in the berth above his.

“They did what they were trained to do,” said Sykes, who said she hopes her son, from Her­rin, Illi­nois, can come home to be with fam­ily as he works through what hap­pened. “You have to re­al­ize most of them are 18, 19 and 20-year-olds liv­ing with guilt. But I told him, ‘There’s a rea­son you’re still here and make that count.’”

On Mon­day morn­ing in Ja­pan, the Navy’s 7th Fleet iden­ti­fied the seven sailors who died. Navy divers had re­cov­ered the bod­ies af­ter the se­verely dam­aged Fitzger­ald re­turned to the fleet’s home in Yoko­suka, Ja­pan, on Satur­day with as­sis­tance from tug boats.

The vic­tims were Gun­ner’s Mate Sea­man Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Vir­ginia; Yeo­man 3rd Class Shingo Alexan­der Dou­glass, 25, from San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia; Sonar Tech­ni­cian 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Con­necti­cut; Gun­ner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Her­nan­dez, 26, from Wes­laco, Texas; Fire Con­trol­man 2nd Class Car­los Vic­tor Gan­zon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Cal­i­for­nia; Per­son­nel Spe­cial­ist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Mary­land; and Fire Con­trol­man 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr, 37, from Elyria, Ohio.

In a state­ment, act­ing Navy Sec­re­tary Sean Stack­ley said, “We are all deeply sad­dened by the tragic loss of our fel­low ship­mates . ... As de­tails emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic ef­fort by the crew to tend to the needs of those in­jured and save the ship from fur­ther dam­age while re­turn­ing safely to port.”

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