Navy Identifies 7 Sailors Lost in USS Fitzgerald Collision

June 18, 2017 4:42 AM - Updated: June 18, 2017 8:29 PM
USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan on June 17, 2017. US Navy Photo

This post was updated with identities of the seven U.S. sailors who died in the Friday collision and a statement from acting Secreatary of the Navy Sean Stackley.

The Navy has identified the seven sailors from the guided-missile destroyer who were killed following a collision with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan, a U.S. 7th Fleet announced on Sunday evening. 

The bodies of the missing sailors were found in the berthing compartments that were flooded after USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) was hit by the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal on Friday.

“The remains of seven sailors previously reported missing were located in flooded berthing compartments, after divers gained access to the spaces, June 18, that were damaged when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal,” read the statement.

The seven sailors identified were:

– 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 Carlos Victor 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

In a Saturday press conference, U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin confirmed that the search and rescue efforts were discontinued shortly after Fitzgerald returned to Yokosuka.

“We have transferred the remains to the Yokosuka Naval hospital,” he said.
“The families are being notified and being provided support they need in this difficult time.“

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin speaks to members of the press about the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) which was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel on June 18, 2017.

All seven sailors were found in the two flooded berthing areas below Fitzgerald’s waterline that was presumably struck by the boulbous bow of Crystal.

“The damage was significant. This was not a small collision. It was right by the pilot’s house and there was a big puncture, a big gash, underneath the waterline also.Three compartments were severely damaged,” Aucoin said at the press conference.
“One machinery room and two berthing areas — berthing areas for 116 of the crew — and the also the ship’s skipper’s cabin as well.”

Fitzgerald’s commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson and three other sailors were evacuated from the ship by Japanese forces and are currently at the U.S. Navy hospital in Yokosuka.

As the search for the missing sailors is over and the ship’s flooding is stabilized, a number of investigations are set to start to uncover the circumstances of the collision between Fitzgerald and Crystal.

Aucoin will appoint a flag officer to lead a Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation to determine the facts of the collision as well as a separate U.S. Navy safety investigation. The U.S. Coast Guard will take lead in a maritime casualty investigation. Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Japan Coast Guard will conduct a separate investigation.

The collision occurred 56 nautical miles from the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka at 2:30 AM local time in a busy shipping lane.

ACX Crystal off of Japan following the collision with the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) on June 17 2017. The Yomiuri Shimbun Photo

Images of Crystal show damage to the container ship’s port bow where the merchant ship collided with the starboard side of the destroyer. The position of the impacts suggest Fitzgerald was attempting to give way to the container ship ahead of the collision but Aucoin declined to answer specific reporter questions on the intents of both ships.

What is known is the damage to Fitzgerlad; is extensive. While it returned to Yokosuka 16 hours after the accident under its own power, several systems were compromised after the collision.

“Because of the tireless damage control efforts of a resolute and courageous team, the ship was able to make its way back to port safely on its own power last evening,” Aucoin said.
“The crew navigated the ship into one of the busiest ports in the world with a magnetic compass and backup navigation equipment. One of two shafts were locked.”

In a statement, acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley praised the efforts of the crew and the Japanese forces that came to the aid of the destroyed and pledged there would be a public accounting of the incident following the investigations.

“The Navy family comes together during tragic events such as this and I want to thank those who continue to provide around-the-clock assistance to the affected families during these difficult days,” Stackley said.
“I also want to express my most heartfelt appreciation to our Japanese allies for their swift support and assistance at this time of our need. In due time, the United States Navy will fully investigate the cause of this tragedy and I ask all of you to keep the Fitzgerald families in your thoughts and prayers as we begin the task of answering the many questions before us.”

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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