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Navy identifies 7 sailors killed in USS Fitzgerald collision near Japan

The USS Fitzgerald sits at Yokosuka Bay, on June 18, 2017, after a collision with a merchant ship on June 17.

TYLER HLAVAC/STARS AND STRIPES

By TYLER HLAVAC | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 19, 2017

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy has named the seven USS Fitzgerald sailors who died after the destroyer collided with a cargo ship Saturday off the coast of Japan.

A 7th Fleet statement issued Monday morning identified them as:

  • Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Va.
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego.
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas.
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Ngoc Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Conn.
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio.
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, Calif.
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Md.

The collision between the Fitzgerald and the Philippine-flagged ACX
Crystal happened about 2:20 a.m.
Saturday, about 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka near the Izu Peninsula, a Navy statement said.

The seven sailors who now have been declared dead were missing, and three others, including the ship’s commander, were medically evacuated to Naval Hospital Yokosuka.

Cmdr. Bryce Benson and the two injured sailors have been released, the 7th Fleet announced on its Facebook page.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, 7th Fleet commander, said Benson’s living area was among many spots on the ship that received significant damage.

“His cabin was destroyed,” he said. “He’s lucky to be alive.”

Navy officials announced Sunday that search-and-rescue efforts had been suspended and that a number of remains had been recovered, but they declined to provide further details pending next-of-kin notification.

The sailors were found in flooded berthing compartments after search-and-rescue crewmembers gained access to spaces that were damaged during the collision, the 7th Fleet said Sunday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steve Giordano were traveling to Yokosuka on Tuesday to meet with Fitzgerald sailors and family members, Naval Forces Japan said.

The pair also plan to visit other sailors and civilian workers from the base’s repair and maintenance facilities to thank them for assisting with the Fitzgerald, the statement said.

The ACX Crystal was heading east, not far from its Tokyo Bay destination, when it turned around and traveled in a circle, according to public data from the ship’s automatic tracking system posted on Marinetraffic.com. It had completed its circle at roughly the same time of the reported collision, according to the data.

There were no injuries or missing personnel reported on the ACX Crystal, a Japan Coast Guard spokesman told Stars and Stripes.

The coast guard initially announced that the collision happened at 2:20 a.m. after receiving a radio report at 2:25 a.m. from the container ship’s crew that the accident had just occurred, the spokesman said. However, after investigating, the coast guard now believes the collision happened at 1:30 a.m.

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Coast guard official Tetsuya Tanaka told The Associated Press the agency is trying to resolve what happened during that 50 minutes.

A spokeswoman for NYK, the company chartering the ACX Crystal, also said the collision happened at 1:30 a.m.

A 7th Fleet spokesman told Stars and Stripes that the time element will be part of the Navy’s investigation.

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Aucoin told reporters gathered at Yokosuka on Sunday that several investigations into the incident will be conducted and that he will appoint a flag officer to oversee a Judge Advocate General Manual Investigation.

Aucoin, speaking near the damaged vessel, added that the Navy intends to fully cooperate with Japanese authorities during their investigation.

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About 400 ships pass each day through the shipping lane where the collision occurred, said the coast guard spokesman, who added that three similar accidents happened there within the past five years.

Navy officials announced in a social media post that a Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team had arrived at Yokosuka to support the Fitzgerald sailors. The release said SPRINT provides “short-term mental health support after a disaster,” with the goal to prevent “long-term unit and individual psychiatric dysfunction or disability.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

hlavac.tyler@stripes.com
 

REMEMBERING THE FALLEN

REMEMBERING THE FALLEN


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