Fitzgerald, McCain Commanders To Face Homicide Charges For Deadly Collisions

news
Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

The former commanders of the two Navy destroyers involved in separate crashes last year that killed 17 sailors will face charges of negligent homicide, the Navy said Tuesday.


Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who commanded the USS Fitzgerald, and Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, former commander of the USS John S. McCain, are also being charged with dereliction of duty and “hazarding a vessel,” a Navy statement said.

Two lieutenants and one lieutenant junior grade from the Fitzgerald are facing similar charges. The Navy did not name those officers being charged.

In addition, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a chief petty officer who was aboard the McCain.

The decision to seek charges was made by Adm. Frank Caldwell, who was designated as the Consolidated Disposition Authority last year by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations.

“Additional administrative actions are being conducted for members of both crews including non-judicial punishment for four Fitzgerald and four John S. McCain crewmembers,” the Navy said.

Last year was a disastrous one for the Navy.

On Jan. 31, the USS Antietam ran aground near Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, and leaked more than 1,000 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay. The ship’s commanding officer was relieved of command in March.

The USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat in May near the east coast of the Korean peninsula.

No one was injured in those incidents.

Then, on June 17, the Fitzgerald crashed into a civilian merchant ship about 60 miles southwest of Yokosuka, killing seven sailors. The ship’s commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief were relieved two months later.

On Aug. 21, the McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore, leaving 10 sailors dead.

Tugboats from Singapore assist the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) as it steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Madailein Abbott

In September, the Navy relieved Task Force 70 commander Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Destroyer Squadron 15 commander Capt. Jeffrey Bennett due to loss of confidence.

The Navy began a comprehensive review of its training, manning and procedures after the two deadly crashes. The review’s many recommendations included improving training on seamanship, navigational skills and equipment aboard ships, as well as reducing fatigue and stress among sailors and officers.

During a news conference in November, Richardson said the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions were “preventable.”

“The causes for the collisions included a failure to plan for safety, failure to adhere to sound navigational practices, failure to execute basic watch-standing principles, failure to properly use available navigation tools, failure to respond deliberately and effectively when in extremist of collision, a loss of situational awareness and high traffic density, failure to follow the international rules of the road and for John S. McCain, insufficient knowledge and proficiency of the ship’s steering system.”

Related: Here’s Exactly What Went Wrong In the Final Moments Before The Fitzgerald And McCain Collisions »

The Navy’s investigative report said that many of the decisions leading to the Fitzgerald crash were the result of poor judgment and decision-making by the commanding officer.

“That said, no single person bears full responsibility for this incident. The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation," the report said.

———

©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Navy SEAL Lt. Jacob "Jake" Portier will be arraigned Tuesday in San Diego for allegedly failing to report war crimes committed by a fellow SEAL and other related offenses.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump hit back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday with a letter saying he was "sorry to inform" her that her trip to Brussels, Belgium and Afghanistan would be canceled due to the government shutdown, just one day after Pelosi proposed cancelling the State of the Union address for similar reasons.

Read More Show Less
Marine Corps drill instructor R. Lee Ermey in his iconic role in 'Full Metal Jacket' (Warner Bros.)

Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey, the legendary Marine drill instructor turned iconic Full Metal Jacket actor who died last year, will be formally laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at 10 a.m. on Jan. 18, according to the cemetery's web site.

Read More Show Less
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum/IMDB

John Wick doesn't give a fuck. He doesn't care about the rules of fancy hotels. He doesn't care about the odds, considering he's always outnumbered and always ends up the last man standing.

And he definitely doesn't give a damn about traffic laws, made apparent in the new trailer for John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.

Read More Show Less