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Hearings Delayed for Officers Accused of Negligence in Fitzgerald, McCain Collisions

Former USS Fitzgerald commander Cmdr. Bryce Benson (left), Former USS John S. McCain commander Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez (right). USNI News Image

The preliminary hearings for sailors facing criminal charges for their roles in the fatal collisions of two guided-missile destroyers in the Western Pacific have been continued, according to the Navy.

The Article 32 hearings on charges that include negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a ship for the former commanders of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and crew aboard Fitzgerald were previously set to take place March 6 to 8 at the Washington Navy Yard, but they were continued at the request of the defense counsel, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Dan Day told USNI News.

Former McCain CO Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, former Fitzgerald CO Cmdr. Bryce Benson and three Fitzgerald officers will now appear before a military judge sometime in April or May, a Navy official told USNI News.

“As continued scheduling and changes occur — common to all cases docketed — updates will be posted on the regularly scheduled public docket issued by Naval District Washington,” read a statement from the service.

Charges for Benson, Sanchez and the sailors from Fitzgerald are part of the ongoing accountability process that is overseen by Adm. James Caldwell. The director of Nuclear Reactors was appointed in October as the Consolidated Disposition Authority tasked to oversee additional accountability actions for the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions.

Earlier this month, Caldwell found former McCain executive officer Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez guilty of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice during a non-judicial punishment hearing in Washington, D.C.

The Navy has issued 18 non-judicial punishments to sailors related to the two collisions, which the service has determined were preventable.

The June collision between Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan resulted in the death of seven sailors. The August collision between McCain and the merchant oiler Alnic MC resulted in 10 sailor deaths.

  • ShermansWar

    They are going to come to the conclusion that if these guys are guilty as charged, then so are their superiors higher up, and their superiors higher up than that, if justice were to be served. This was a systemic failure that starts at the top

    • D. Jones

      Indeed, but the actual people who failed to do their jobs those nights (OOD & watch) are STILL being hidden by the Navy. Why?

      • BillyP

        Gender? Ethnicity? Drug record?

  • Charles Pierce

    The navy and the administration really do not want this to become a public process. The lawyers for the two individual will turn this into a indictment of the policies and funding of the congress, the administration and the Navy. Both are guilty but the over working of a much to small navy is also responsible. An Army Guy.

    • BillyP

      A public and detailed examination of ALL facts and ALL those responsible is the very least that should happen. So some Sacred Cows will get a roasting – small price to pay.

      • Charles Pierce

        I agree with you, but that is not what the navy wants. They want these folks to quietly into that good night.

        • BillyP

          J’accuse – – THAT is what we need! Where is today’s Emile Zola? WHO is today’s Emile Zola? Rush Limbaugh?

  • publius_maximus_III

    Repeating my comments from a month ago…

    Sadly, had both skippers been replaced prior to the collisions, I doubt it would have prevented them. Nevertheless, the buck stops with the CO (aboard a ship anyway). Those two careers in the USN are over.

    IMHO, they will never make the negligent homicide charges stick.

    • BillyP

      Quite right – this fish started to rot from the head, still is.