In the early morning hours of June 17th, the Naval Destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald collided with the merchant freighter, the ACX Crystal. Amid much speculation, and some controversy, what exactly caused the deadly collision, remains unclear.
While the investigation into the incident continues, the US Navy has released the names of the seven sailors first presumed missing, and then found dead aboard the heavily damaged Fitzgerald.
The Japan-based 7th Fleet identified the victims on Monday as 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 Carlosvictor 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.
A combination photo of the dead sailors identified by the U.S. Navy in the collision
Courtesy: US Navy
What We Do Know
Four investigations continue into the cause of the deadly collision, including one by local authorities who are questioning the 20 Filipino crew members who were aboard the 728-foot merchant ship. Nippon Yusen KK, the Japanese company that operates the cargo ship, says it is “cooperating fully” with the investigation. None of crew of the ACX Crystal were harmed in the crash.
What exactly caused the two vessels to dramatically collide, remains under investigation. What we do know is this that around 2:00AM in the waters off Japan, the container ship hit the naval destroyer, ripping open the warship and sending seawater gushing into the rooms where the men lay asleep.
“The damage was significant. This was not a small collision,” U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin said at a press conference following the crash.
The Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal suffered only minor damage as compared to the Fitzgerald
The ACX Crystal, an enormous Philippine Cargo vessel, “T-boned” the much smaller USS Fitzgerald “opening the hull to the sea and rapidly flooding three large compartments that included two berthing areas for 116 crew members,” Aucoin said. The Vice Admiral added that the ship’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was trapped inside his cabin, which took a direct hit in the crash. Benson survived, but had to be airlifted to the Naval Hospital Yokosuka, where he remains in stable condition.
“The Fighting Fitz”
The crew, the “Fighting Fitz” as they are known, immediately sprang into action, responding to the disaster in the way they have been trained. The 300 sailors aboard the Fitzgerald, lived up to their name, heroically working to contain the flooding and prevent the boat from sinking. They then successfully navigated the heavily damaged ship back to their home port, despite the fact that all of her sophisticated electronics, and Nav systems were down. The intrepid crew brought the Fitzgerald home using only a magnetic compass and backup equipment. Aucoin hailed their efforts in his press conference.
The damage to the USS Fitzgerald was extensive
“Heroic efforts prevented the flooding from catastrophically spreading which could have caused the ship to flounder or sink. It could have been much worse,” Aucoin said.
And yet, despite their valiant efforts, they could not save the lives of their seven comrades. As details into the cause of the crash continue to emerge, we will offer them here, but for now, please join 26 North Yachts in mourning the loss of these brave sailors, and offering prayers to their families and loved ones.