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Remains of 7 sailors killed in US ship collision return home

by Spike Bowan  |  Published on June 21, 2017

The U.S. Navy says the bodies of the seven American sailors killed in a collision between their destroyer and a container ship off the Japanese coast have headed home.

The bodies of the seven crew members who died, their ages ranging from 19 to 37, were found by Navy divers after the warship returned to Yokosuka, Japan, home to the Navy’s 7th fleet.

The bodies left Tokyo on a flight on Tuesday.

The Navy said that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet.

The USS Fitzgerald was back at its home port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo by sunset Saturday. The 29,060-ton Philippine-flagged container ship, ACX Crystal, was berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where officials were questioning crew members about the cause of the nighttime crash. The ACX Crystal’s crew were all Filipinos.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet identified the sailors killed after Saturday’s crash as:

  • Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Va.
  • Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, Calif.
  • Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Conn.
  • Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
  • Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor GanzonSibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Calif.
  • Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Md.
  • Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio

Japan’s coast guard was investigating why it took nearly an hour for the collision to be reported. A Japanese coast guard official said Monday that they are investigating what the crew of the ACX Crystal was doing before reporting the crash.

The coast guard initially said the collision occurred at 2:20 a.m. because the Philippine ship had reported it at 2:25 a.m. and said it just happened. After interviewing Filipino crewmembers, the coast guard has changed the collision time to 1:30 a.m. Japanese coast guard officials are investigating the case as possible professional negligence, but no criminal charges have been pressed so far.

After stabilizing the USS Fitzgerald, the destroyer USS Dewey had joined other American and Japanese vessels and aircraft in the search for the missing sailors.

The U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement that the crash damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room. The majority of the nearly 300 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the pre-dawn crash.

 

The Navy said the three sailors who were injured in the collision have been released from a Navy hospital.

“We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates,” Sean Stackley, acting Navy secretary said. “As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port.” The USS Fitzgerald collision is the third mishap since late January involving Navy warships near Japan. In a statement, acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley said, “We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates. As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port.

” He thanked “our Japanese allies” for their swift assistance, and said the Navy will full investigate the cause.Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, described a harrowing scene as other sailors fought to keep the ship from sinking. Most of the damage is below the waterline, including a large gash near the keel, Aucoin said.

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