USS Fitzgerald Investigation Puts Navy at Fault for Deadly Collision

USS Fitzgerald Investigation Puts Navy at Fault for Deadly Collision
An initial probe finds that the ship’s crew “should have spoken up” earlier.
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

What caused the bizarre June 17 collision between a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer and a Philippines cargo ship that killed seven U.S. sailors off the coast of Japan?

It looks like some answers may finally be forthcoming.

An initial investigation has found that the USS Fitzgerald’s crew did not respond adequately to signals, did not understand that the other ship was drawing near, and may have failed even to summon the commanding officer, according to CNN.

“They did nothing until the last second,” said one defense official.

“There were many people who should have spoken up,” another official told Fox News.

The far larger cargo ship hit the Fitzgerald on its starboard side at 1:30 am after veering sharply in a failed attempt to avoid it, gouging out a deep gash that left the Navy destroyer listing to one side. After the deadly collision, the Fitzgerald was towed to the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka. Three Navy sailors, including the commanding officer, were evacuated to medical facilities in Japan. Divers salvaged the bodies of seven American sailors.

It was the deadliest U.S. naval event since the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.

Multiple investigations have been launched to figure out how a radar-equipped, sophisticated vessel like the Fitzgerald was apparently unable to avoid a much larger ship.

International navigation guidelines state that “the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way.”

A Navy spokeswoman warned that no conclusions should yet be drawn from the initial probe.

“We are in the early stages of the investigation process to develop a comprehensive picture of what caused the collision and do not have any definitive information to release at this time,” Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, U.S. Navy Chief of Information, said in a statement.

“It is premature to speculate on causation or any other issues,” said Cutler. “Once we have a detailed understanding of the facts and circumstances, we will share those findings with the Fitzgerald families, our Congressional oversight committees and the general public.”

STR/AFP/Getty Images