An announcement was made by the Navy on Thursday revealing that it will punish the leadership of the USS Fitzgerald, a destroyer that crashed into a merchant ship in Japanese waters in June leaving seven sailors dead.
The commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted officer of the ship have all been relieved of their responsibilities aboard the ship as revealed by Navy officials.
The vice chief of naval operations, Admiral William Moran, revealed that the admiral of the 7th fleet felt that crucial mistakes were made by the crew of the Fitzgerald during the June collision with a Philippine container ship that claimed the lives of seven sailors.
The Admiral also revealed that the bridge team had lost situational awareness, leaving the bridge team unable to respond to the incident.
The three leaders on the ship will face administrative action at a so-called “Captain’s Mast” meeting on Friday in Japan, officials said. Also, up to a dozen other sailors will face non-judicial punishment.
While not an admission of guilt for the June accident, the administrative action is a strong indication that the U.S. Navy was at fault for the collision with the ACX Crystal, a Philippines-registered cargo ship.
There are two naval investigations that are being conducted into the crash which took place on the 17th of June. The U.S. 7TH Fleet made a statement the following day revealing that the bodies of the sailors were found in flooded compartments.
The seven sailors were posthumously promoted on Wednesday. Twenty-eight other sailors were able to escape. A Navy review of the incident found that the deaths could not be blamed on misconduct and commended the response of the ship's crew following the collision.
The review revealed that no damage control efforts would have prevented Berthing 2 from flooding completely within the first two minutes following the collision, or the deadly circumstances in that accident.
In a matter of 90 seconds, the berthing cabin of the ship had already flooded. Most of the sailors conducted themselves in a heroic manner to prevent the ship from sinking. At one point, the captain was hanging onto the side of the ship and had to be rescued by the crew. The cargo ship directly impacted the Destroyers cabin.
The U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin said that the crew had to fight to keep the ship above the surface. Aucoin emphasized that he was overly proud of the crew after what they did to save the ship.