Three leaders relieved of duty, sailors disciplined over deadly USS Fitzgerald collision

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In this Aug. 20, 2013 photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) makes its way through the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. military said the Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan and said there have been injuries. In a brief written statement, U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii said the Navy has requested assistance from the Japanese Coast Guard. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly/U.S. Navy via AP)

WASHINGTON — The captain, two other leaders and at least a dozen sailors who were on board the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with another ship off the coast of Japan have been disciplined.

According to reports, the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, CDR Bryce Benson, and the executive officer, CDR Sean Babbitt, were both asleep, and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin was not on the bridge when the two vessels collided on June 17.

All three have been relieved of duty, reported CBS News.

“We’ve lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead in those positions and they will not return to the ship,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran reportedly told reporters at the Pentagon late Thursday.

Several other sailors who were on watch made “critical mistakes” that caused the crash that killed seven sailors.

View the Report

The Navy’s report paints a horrifying picture of what happened, stating 35 sailors were asleep aboard the destroyer when it collided with another ship. The impact punched a 17 by 13 foot hole into the hull, sending sailors, their lockers and other debris flying.

Within 30 to 60 seconds the entire space was nearly flooded, the report stated.

The sailors were praised for their response to the situation.

“The Sailors assigned to Berthing 2 should be commended for their response to the dangerous and deadly threat they faced. They did what is expected of Sailors in such a situation: they checked racks to make sure everyone was wake; they formed calm lines to egress the space on the port side, away from the flooding; and they filed out of the Berthing in an orderly fashion.”

As the compartment flooded around them, two sailors stayed behind to help others up the ladder, before pulling themselves up. On the second level, they continued to wait to see if any others could be saved. They eventually had to retreat once more to prevent the water from reaching other parts of the ship.

“The choices made by these two Sailors likely saved the lives of at least two of their shipmates,”the report said.

In all, 28 made it out alive.

The Navy released the names of the sailors killed in June:

  • 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
  • Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio