Investigators Question Delay in Reporting US Destroyer Collision

U.S. and Japanese authorities say they are investigating why personnel on a U.S. destroyer and a massive Japanese merchant vessel took nearly a hour to report the deadly collision that killed seven sailors on the destroyer off the coast of Japan.

Officials from both countries say the accident was reported by both ships at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday, but tracking data shows the accident happening at 1:30 a.m.

The tracking data has the ACX Crystal, the container ship, making a u-turn shortly after 1:30 and returning to where it had been at 1:30.  

A U.S. Seventh Fleet spokesman said the accident appears to have happened at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, not at 2:30 a.m. as the USS Fitzgerald reported.

Nanami Meguro, a spokeswoman for Nippon Yusen, the container ship’s operator, said the ship’s tracking information showed that it was “operating as usual” until the collision at 1:30 a.m.  She did not have any information about the delay in reporting  the accident.

“Because it was an emergency, the crewmembers may not have been able to place a call,” she said.

The collision is being investigated by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and Japan’s Coast Guard and its Transport Safety Board.

Earlier Monday, the U.S. Navy identified the seven sailors who were found dead in the flooded sleeping compartments of the Fitzgerald.

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley said, “We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates.”

Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said Sunday “a significant portion of the crew was sleeping” when the destroyer and the Philippine-flagged container ship collided.  He said that sea water gushed into sleeping compartments and that part of the ship’s right side was caved in.

Aucoin said, “The ship suffered severe damage rapidly flooding three large compartments that included one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew.”  

Three of the crew were injured in the accident, including the vessel’s commanding officer Bryce Benson, whose cabin, Aucoin said was “directly hit, trapping the CO inside.”

Aucoin said Benson, who is in stable condition with a head injury, “is lucky to be alive.”  The two other sailors suffered cuts and bruises.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the details regarding the conditions during the final moments, but hope that the investigation may shed some light on that matter,” Aucoin said.

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 Ngoe 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.

The Crystal  is nearly four times the size of the destroyer.  The 29,000-ton Philippine ship is 222 meters long, while the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer is 154 meters long.

None of the Crystal crew was hurt.  


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