The U.S. Navy is firing the top leadership from USS Fitzgerald which collided with a container ship four times its size off the coast of Japan in June.


Navy Commander Bryce Benson, the commanding officer of USS Fitzgerald, along with the warship’s second in command and the command master chief will be “detached for cause” — or effectively fired — on Friday, Admiral William Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said at The Pentagon.

The U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement that the crash damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the pre-dawn crash, Fox News reported.

Nippon Yusen, the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship, said in a statement it is collaborating with the ship owner and fully cooperating with the investigation by the coast guard. The 29,060-ton ship is Philippine-flagged and all the crew are Filipinos.

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The USS Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted early Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition with a head injury, the Navy said. Two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated. It was unclear how many others may have been hurt.


Fox News reported that as the USS Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, proceeded south from her homeport of Yokosuka, Japan at 20 knots in the early morning hours of June 17, more ships appeared and the area became “congested,” Moran said.

Seven sailors drowned in the compartment known as “Berthing 2.” There were 28 other sailors who made it out of the compartment, which flooded quickly.

“It is somewhat amazing that we didn’t lose far more,” Moran said.

According to a report detailing the crew’s effort to keep the ship afloat, sailors escaped flooding spaces in chest and sometimes neck deep water seconds after hitting the Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal on USS Fitzgerald’s starboard side.

The report described the last sailor to escape the flooded Berthing 2. “He was swimming towards the watertight scuttle when he was pulled from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes.  He reported that when taking his final breath before being saved, he was already submerged and breathed in water.”

The Commanding Officer’s cabin was hit and it took about 25 minutes to recover him, Moran said.

“The rescue team tied themselves together with a belt in order to create a makeshift harness as they retrieved the (commanding officer), who was hanging from the side of the ship,” according to the report.

“Clearly at some point the bridge team lost situational awareness,” said Moran, describing the group of officers and sailors responsible for driving the warship through the water.

In addition to relieving the warship’s top leadership, Moran said about a dozen other sailors also face disciplinary action.

They will face non-judicial punishments yet to be determined.

An announcement is expected tomorrow from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Commander from Japan.

The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John M. Richardson, is expected to release details of the full investigation in a matter of “weeks,” Moran said.


Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Navy heroes and the families.

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