|USS Fitzgerald after the collision with ACX Crystal (File Photo)|
According to the captain of the Filipino cargo ship the ACX Crystal, which collided with the destroyer USS Fitzgerald on June 17, the American warship failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before the collision which killed seven US seamen.
The statement came by way of Dainichi Investment Corporation, the Japanese company that owns the Crystal. According to them, Captain Ronald Advincula stated that he signaled at the USS Fitzgerald with flashing lights after the warship "suddenly" changed course to cross his cargo ship's path.
Advincula says that the Fitzgerald then failed to change direction, while the cumbersome cargo ship in vain veered right to avoid it. The collision between the 9,000-ton destroyer and the 29,000-ton cargo vessel tore a hole in the underside of the Fitzgerald, flooding two sleeping compartments. Seven Americans were killed, making it the most fatal incident to befall a US Navy vessel since the al-Qaeda terrorist attack against the USS Cole in 2000 that killed seventeen.
In addition, three sailors including the ship's captain, Navy Commander Bryce Benson, were injured and had to be medivaced to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. Benson and one of the sailors have since been discharged, while the third remains in the hospital.
The scope of the damage, from the berthing compartments to the radio room, the auxiliary machine room all the way to the commander's cabin, suggests that no alarm of an imminent collision was sounded.
The incident occurred about 57 miles from the Japanese coastline. The US Navy, the US Coast Guard, the American National Transportation Safety Board, the Japan Transport Safety Board, the Japanese Coast Guard, and the government of the Philippines have all launched investigations into the incident. The US Navy has not commented on Captain Advincula's comments.
Contradicting Advincula's version of the events, one report claims that the Crystal did not slow down whatsoever to avert a crash with the Fitzgerald. Previous reports have claimed that the ACX Crystal waited nearly an hour to call the incident in. Advincula stated that the crash caused "confusion" and that the vessel kept moving after the collision, traveling 11 miles before turning back around and returning to the scene.
For the moment, many facts about the crash remain a matter of hearsay. For instance, naval analysts such as Steffan Watkins with IT security firm Janes Intelligence claimed that it seemed like the Crystal was being autopiloted along an automated course, a bit of speculation that nobody has confirmed or denied.
A petition to name the Navy's next destroyer after Petty Officer Gary Rehm Jr., a USS Fitzgerald sailor who sacrificed his life to save a dozen of his fellow sailors by entering a damaged bulkhead to seal it from within, has garnered over 15,000 signatures.
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.