The ACX Crystal cargo vessel is manned by a Philippine crew and owned by Dainichi Investment Corporation, a Japanese shipping company.
Captain Ronald Advincula of the ACX Crystal filed a report with Dainichi that asserted the cargo ship tried in vain to warn the Fitzgerald to change course. The collision occurred in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early morning.
In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship’s captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path.”
Advinclula claimed the container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the destroyer but hit it directly amidships 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m. Despite the warning signals, the Navy ship did not take any evasive action.
The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald’s waterline, killing seven sailors in what was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen’s Aden harbor in 2000.”
The sailors who died were in their sleeping quarters and Commander Bryce Benson, the ship’s commanding officer, was injured in his cabin above them. As an emergency measure to keep the ship from sinking, watertight hatches were shut to keep the vessel from flooding.
The deceased sailors were effectively sealed in their berthing compartment. Preliminary naval reports suggest that a number of them were already dead as a result of the collision.
Commander Benson was seriously injured and temporarily trapped in his quarters until action could be taken to free him. He was medevacked off the ship and taken back to the naval base in Yokosuka, the ship’s home port.
The incident has prompted six separate investigations: two internal reviews by the U.S. Navy; one by the United States Coast Guard on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); one by the Japan Transport Safety Board; another by the Japanese Coast Guard; and the last by the Philippine government.
At the heart of the investigations is resolving how a guided missile destroyer, outfitted with the most sophisticated radar, could be hit by a vessel more than three times its size.
Also under review is the fact that the ACX Crystal waited for almost an hour to report the collision to the Japanese Coast Guard.
In his report, the ACX Crystal’s captain said there was “confusion” on his ship’s bridge, and that it turned around and returned to the collision site after continuing for 6 nautical miles (11 km).”
The results of the investigation will determine if any officers and crew members of the USS Fitzgerald might be held liable and subject to court martial. Navy spokesmen have declined comment because the investigations are ongoing.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation News