Navy Announces Punishments in USS Fitzgerald Collision
The vessel's senior officer is to be relieved of command
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 17, 2017 8:08 PM CDT
The damaged USS Fitzgerald following a collision with a container ship June 17 off the coast of Japan.   (Eugene Hoshiko)

(Newser) – The captain of a Navy warship that lost seven sailors in a collision with a commercial container ship in June will be relieved of command and nearly a dozen others face punishment, the vice chief of naval operations said Thursday. The AP reports Adm. William Moran told reporters the top three leaders aboard the USS Fitzgerald, which was badly damaged in the collision off the coast of Japan, will be removed from duty aboard the ship. They are the commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson; the executive officer, Cmrd. Sean Babbitt; and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin. The actions are being taken by Rear Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet, because he lost confidence in the three, Moran said. In addition, nearly a dozen face non-judicial punishment yet to be determined, Moran said.

Moran said the actions are to be taken shortly, although the Navy's investigation into how and why the USS Fitzgerald collided with the container ship in June has not yet been completed. "Serious mistakes were made by members of the crew," Moran said, adding that he could not fully detail those mistakes because the investigation is ongoing. He said "the bridge team," or the sailors responsible for keeping watch on the ship's bridge to ensure it remains safe, had "lost situational awareness," which left them unable to respond quickly enough to avoid the disaster once the oncoming container ship was spotted. The crash occurred in the pre-dawn hours of June 17 off the coast of Japan in an accident-prone area known for congestion.

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