The United States Navy on Thursday announced punishments for the USS Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, executive officer, and senior enlisted sailor over the mistake that led to a collision between the destroyer and a cargo ship off the coast of Japan in June. In an official statement, the U.S. Navy said the officers were relieved of their duties because they were accountable for the collision that claimed the lives of seven U.S. sailors.
Several other officers and listed watch standers have also been held accountable for the collision that took place June 17. This is not the first time the U.S. Navy has taken a strict action against commanding officer or other crew members after they were found guilty of contributing to a tragedy or not reacting appropriately to the situation.
In August 2012, the commanding officer of guided missile destroyer Porter was relieved less than three weeks after the ship collided with a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. He was removed "due to loss of confidence in Arriola's ability to command," a navy spokesperson had said, according to reports.
Last year in January, three U.S. Navy officers were relieved of their duties after two command boats were captured by Iran, multiple reports said.
A Navy jet pilot, Timothy Dorsey, never flew again after he was found guilty of basic error in judgment in 1987. He shot down an Air Force jet over the Mediterranean Sea and injured two people, as per the reports.
Navy officers have also faced similar punishment over misconduct. Earlier this month, two Marine cop commanders were relieved from their duty over sharing inappropriate pictures of female troops in a private Facebook group, reports said.
Various factors including the accused’s rank are considered in different cases for deciding the nature of the punishment.
The USS Fitzgerald that had 35 sailors on board was traveling at a speed of about 56 nautical miles to Yokosuk. According to the maritime rules, vessels should give way to ships that are on their starboard side (a term used for the right side of the ship) where the damage was done. This raised questions if the U.S. ship was at fault, BBC reported.
In the official statement Commander, U.S. 7th fleet said the accident was avoidable but shipmen of both the ships showed poor seamanship. The statement further said that inadequate leadership contributed to the collision.
Cmdr. Bryce Benson was relieved due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to lead." "Cmdr. Benson is being reassigned to Naval District Washington at the Washington Navy Yard, where he will have access to medical facilities in the area."
Speaking to reporters late Thursday, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran said, “They will be detached from the ship for cause, which is, we've lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead in those positions and they will not return to the ship.”