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Summary of Major Events Since Fatal USS Fitzgerald Collision

Last year’s fatal collisions of guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) began a chain of investigations, accountability actions and reform efforts. The following is a summary of the major events that have occurred since the early morning June 17, 2018, incident between Fitzgerald and the merchant ship ACX Crystal.

June 16, 2017, 11:00 PM

A Sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), stands watch while the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), left, and USS McCampbell (DDG 85) steam nearby during MultiSail 17 on March 10, 2017. US Navy photo.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) begins an outbound transit to sea from Sagami Wan operating area. The ship had departed its homeport at Yokosuka, Japan, earlier that day.

June 17, 2017, 1:30 AM


Fitzgerald and Japanese commercial ship ACX Crystal collideCrystal’s flared bow impacts Fitzgerald’s starboard side, crushing the superstructure near the commander’s cabin. The bulbous bow of the merchant ship punched a 13-foot-by-17-foot hole below the waterline.

June 17, 2017, 4:07 PM

A crippled Fitzgerald enters the inner harbor of Yokosuka Naval Base after the crew fought flooding on the ship for hours after the collision.

June 18, 2017

A photo compilation depicting the seven sailors who died during June 17, 2017 collision between a merchant ship and the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. USNI News Image

A photo compilation depicting the seven sailors who died during June 17, 2017 collision between a merchant ship and the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. (Top: left to right) Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, (Bottom: left to right) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan. USNI News Image

Navy salvage divers recover the bodies of seven sailors who drowned in Fitzgerald’s Berthing 2.

June 23, 2017

Rear Admiral Brian P. Fort. US Navy Photo

Rear Adm. Brian Fort is tapped to head the Navy’s Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN) investigation of the circumstances leading to and following Fitzgerald’s collision with a commercial ship. Fort had previously been the commander of USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) and Destroyer Squadron 26.

Aug. 17, 2017

line of duty determination investigation into the Fitzgerald collision is released publically by the Navy.

Aug. 17, 2017

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt and CMC Brice Baldwin were removed from their positions on USS Fitzgerald

Ship CO Cmdr. Bryce Benson, executive officer Cmdr. Sean Babbitt and command master chief CMC Brice Baldwin – Fitzgerald’s command triad – are removed from their positions by U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin. Several junior officers are also relieved of their positions.

Aug. 21, 2017, 5:24 AM


USS McCain (DDG-56) collides with Liberian-flagged chemical tanker Alnic MC while transiting the Strait of Malacca near Singapore.

Aug. 21, 2017

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announces a worldwide operational pause and a Fleet Forces-led investigation to determine any links between a months-long series of fatal and non-fatal incidents and how the Navy does business in Japan.

Aug. 22, 2017

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.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, is removed from his post less than a month ahead of his previously scheduled retirement date. Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, who had already been confirmed for the position, moves into command early.

Aug. 23, 2017

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) stands by before it is loaded onto the heavy lift transport vessel MV Transshelf in 2017. US Navy Photo

The Navy announces Fitzgerald will be moved by heavy-lift transport for repairs at the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Miss.

Aug. 24, 2017

(Top: left to right) Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon
(Bottom: left to right) Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckles, Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell

The first body of the 10 missing sailors believed killed in the McCain collision is recovered.

Aug. 25, 2017

A second sailor’s body is recovered from McCain. The bodies of eight more sailors are believed to still be in the ship.

Aug. 27, 2017

Navy salvage divers recover the bodies of the final eight sailors who died when McCain collided with a commercial ship.

Sept. 1, 2017

Then Rear Adm. Richard Brown.

Rear Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Personnel Command and Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel, is tapped to lead a second dual-purpose admiralty and Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation into the circumstances surrounding McCain’s collision with Alnic MC.

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announces he has launched a separate investigation into the collisions.

Sept. 18, 2017

CTF 70 commander Rear Adm. Charles Williams, DESRON 15 commander Capt. Jeffrey Bennett. USNI News image

Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70, and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, are removed from their leadership positions. Williams also served as commander of Carrier Strike Group 5.

Sept. 25, 2017

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, conducts a media availability at Changi Naval Base on Aug. 22, 2017. US Navy Photo

Adm. Scott Swift, then the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, asks to retire after learning from CNO Richardson that he will not be selected to lead U.S. Pacific Command. Until this point, Swift had been considered by many as the leading candidate to command PACOM.

Oct. 2, 2017

Huntington Ingalls Industries is awarded $29.4-million initial planning contract for Fitzgerald repairs. Total repair costs are estimated to be about $367 million.

Oct. 5, 2017

McCain is loaded on heavy-lift transport M/V Treasure off the coast of Singapore to be delivered to Yokosuka, Japan, for repairs. Cost of repairs will be about $223 million and take about a year.

Oct. 10, 2017

USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) commander Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez and executive officer Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez

McCain commanding officer Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez and executive officer Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez are removed from their command by 7th Fleet.

Oct. 16, 2017

The Navy announces that, as Fitzgerald is repaired, the guided-missile destroyer will not be upgraded to receive the latest version of the Aegis Combat System.

Oct. 20, 2017

Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and citations are staged for presentation to 36 Sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during an awards ceremony in Yokosuka, Japan. Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, presented the awards to Sailors aboard Fitzgerald who distinguished themselves for their bravery and contributions to damage control efforts after a collision with a merchant vessel on June 17, 2017. US Navy photo.

Thirty-six sailors from Fitzgerald are awarded Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals for their bravery and successful damage control efforts following Fitzgerald’s collision with Crystal.

Oct. 21, 2017

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) departs Subic Bay, Philippines aboard heavy-lift transport vessel MV Treasure, Nov. 28. Treasure will transport McCain to Fleet Activities Yokosuka to undergo repairs. US Navy Photo

McCain is diverted to Subic Bay, Philippines, after a hull crack is discovered during the destroyer’s transit to Japan via a heavy-lift transport ship.

Oct. 30, 2017

Adm. James F. Caldwell, Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, gives remarks during a senior leader all hands at Sharkey Theater, July 11, 2017. US Navy Photo

Adm. James F. Caldwell, head of Naval Reactors, is designated by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran to be the Consolidated Disposition Authority to review the accountability actions already taken regarding the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions, and to take additional administrative or disciplinary actions as appropriate.

Nov. 1, 2017

A summary of findings from the Navy investigations into the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions is released.

Nov. 2, 2017

A Comprehensive Review Recent Surface Force Incidents, including a pair of nonfatal mishaps and the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions, is released by the Navy.

Nov. 24, 2017

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) is loading onto the heavy lift transport vessel MV Transshelf. US Navy Photo

Fitzgerald leaves Yokosuka to begin transiting aboard semi-submersible heavy-lift transport vessel M/V Transshelf to Pascagoula, Miss., where the damaged ship will be repaired.

Nov. 27, 2017

Fitzgerald returns to Yokosuka, Japan, so repairs can be made to a pair of punctures that were caused by the steel support structure on heavy-lift transport vessel M/V Transshelf.

Nov. 28, 2017

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is lowered from the heavy lift transport MV Treasure on December 13, 2017. US Navy Photo

McCain departs Subic Bay, Philippines, to resume journey to Yokosuka, where it will be repaired. McCain was in Subic Bay for a little more than a month because of bad weather.

Dec. 13, 2017

McCain arrives in Yokosuka, Japan.

Dec. 14, 2018

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. US Navy Photo


SECNAV Spencer releases the results of the Secretary of the Navy Strategic Readiness Review.

Jan. 16, 2018

News breaks that the Navy will charge the commanders of Fitzgerald and McCain and some junior officers from Fitzgerald with criminal negligent homicide for their roles in the collisions.

Jan. 19, 2018

The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) arrives at the port of Pascagoula, Miss. on Jan. 19, 2018 aboard the heavy lift transport vessel M/V Transshelf. US Navy Photo

Fitzgerald, on the deck of heavy-lift transport M/V Transshelf, arrives at the port of Pascagoula, Miss., where it will be repaired. Fitzgerald is expected to remain in Pascagoula for two years.

Feb. 21, 2018

Bridge layout of Fitzgerald on June 17, 2018. US Navy Photo

The Navy announces a training simulation is created based on the events leading up to Fitzgerald’s collision with Crystal. The new scenario is included on the Surface Warfare Officer School bridge simulator in Newport, R.I.

Feb. 26, 2018

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and co-sponsor Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduce the Surface Warfare Enhancement Act of 2018 to put into law the recommendations of the Navy’s Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents and SECNAV Spencer’s Strategic Readiness Review.

May 8, 2018

Lt. j.g. Sarah B. Coppock, officer of the deck during the Fitzgerald collision, enters a guilty plea to a single criminal charge of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Coppock was sentenced to three months reduced pay and issued a punitive reprimand.

“My entire career my guys have been my number one priority,” Coppock said during the hearing. “When it mattered, I failed them. I made a tremendously bad decision and they paid the price.”

May 10, 2018

The Navy holds an Article 32 hearing for Lt. Natalie Combs, the tactical action officer, and Lt. Irian Woodley, the surface warfare coordinator, who were both on duty in Fitzgerald’s combat information center at the time of the deadly collision.

May 16, 2018

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, then-executive officer, assists in bringing down the battle ensign aboard USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) in 2016. US Navy Photo

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, former commander of Fitzgerald, vows to fight criminal charges of hazarding a vessel, dereliction of duty and negligent homicide in a court martial in a statement to the press.

“Cmdr. Benson’s approach to accountability stands in stark contrast to the Navy’s method of litigating this case through the media and other out-of-court opinions and declarations from senior Navy leaders,” read a statement released by Benson’s legal team. “As Cmdr. Benson recuperates from his own debilitating injuries and proceeds through the institutional, administrative and disciplinary procedures triggered by the collision, senior Navy leaders have repeatedly used public forums to assign guilt, foreclose legitimate defenses, and cast unwarranted aspersions.”

May 22, 2018

Moon over U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2016. NASA Photo

House Armed Services Committee considers three legislative reforms aimed a professionalizing surface warfare officer training and simplifying command and control of forward-deployed forces. The proposed reforms are intended to prevent avoidable mishaps, such as the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions.

May 24, 2018

Chief Boatswain’s Mate Jeffery Butler, a senior enlisted member of the John S. McCain crew, enters a guilty plea to a single charge of dereliction of duty for his part in the collision resulting in the death of 10 sailors. Butler was sentenced to a reduction in rank from E-7 to E-6 – Boatswain’s Mate First Class.

May 25, 2018

Outoging commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Vice Adm. Tom Rowden speaks with the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) on Sept. 17, 2017. US Navy Photo

News breaks that SECNAV Spencer recommends Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, who commanded U.S. surface forces until a January change of command and retirement ceremony, retire as a two-star rear admiral. This is considered a punitive measure for his role in creating conditions that led to the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions.

May 25, 2018

Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez. US Navy Photo

Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, commander of John S. McCain at the time of the collision, enters a guilty plea to a single charge of negligence for his role in the incident that killed 10 sailors. As part of the agreement, Sanchez requested to retire, received a punitive letter of reprimand and forfeited $6,000 in pay.

“Your honor, as the commanding officer, I am ultimately responsible and stand accountable for the actions and decisions leading to the [McCain] collision and death of my ten sailors on 21 Aug. 2017,” Sanchez said in a statement. “I will forever question my decisions that contributed to this tragic event and fully recognize that no actions or desires will bring our sailors back.”

June 8, 2018

The officer who oversaw Lt. Natalie Combs’ and Lt. Irian Woodley‘s Article 32 hearing recommended the pair not face court-martial for their role in the Fitzgerald collision. Both had faced negligent homicide charges.

June 17, 2018

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

One-year anniversary of Fitzgerald collision.

  • Curtis Conway

    The most disturbing thing about this is the stations manned on the Bridge while transiting a heavy traffic zone with AIS turned off, radars not working properly, and no Lookouts on the Bridge Wings. Remember, the Signalman are gone, so no one else is topside. There are so many layers of faulty logic, lack of leadership, and lack of professionalism depicted in this article, that there is not room enough space to cover all of it.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Although SECNAV Ray Mabus’s name and photo do not appear here, they should. Changes made on his watch set the USN up for these failures afterward.

    • wilkinak

      As should CNOs Roughead & Greenert