Admiral Bill Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, said on Thursday the USS Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor are among those to be disciplined.
“They will be detached from the ship for cause, which (means) we’ve lost trust and confidence for their ability to lead in those positions and they will not return from the ship,” Moran said during a press conference.
The USS Fitzgerald guided-missile destroyer collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, in the early hours of June 17, killing seven American seamen.
The 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship collided off Japan’s Izu Peninsula. While the container ship sustained little damage, the destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side.
Several American and Japanese investigations took place into how the USS Fitzgerald and the container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay.
According to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula’s report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation, the vessel had signaled with flashing lights after the warship “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path.
The vessel attempted to get out of the path of the Fitzgerald, but hit it about 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to the report.
Moran said the disciplinary moves are all “initial accountability actions,” which means the sailors could face more punishments depending on the outcome of different ongoing investigations.
“I’m not telling they will or they won’t. It’s just we are not done with the investigation,” Moran said.
Following the incident, the Navy’s 7th Fleet commander said the collision “could have been much worse.”
“The crew’s response was swift and effective, and I want to point out — as we stand by the ship — how proud I am of them,” Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said.
“Heroic efforts prevented the flooding from catastrophically spreading, which could have caused the ship to founder or sink,” Aucoin added. “It could have been much worse.”
The seven missing sailors from the USS Fitzgerald were found dead in flooded compartments later, according to a US Navy official.