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Internal Probe Into Fitzgerald Destroyer Collision Reveals Litany Of Issues

Source: Navy Times

January 16 2019


An internal review of a deadly destroyer collision in June 2017 has revealed that the ship suffered from a number of problems that contributed to the accident, reports the Navy Times.

The dual-purpose investigation, which was obtained by the newspaper, was overseen by Rear Adm. Brian Fort and submitted 41 days after the collision on June 17, 2017, that killed seven sailors. The report was kept confidential in part because it was intended to prepare the Navy for potential lawsuits.

According to the report, the ship lacked proper leadership, including the absence of the captain and executive officer from the bridge during potentially dangerous transits at night through busy waterways. Junior officers were found to not report or notify superiors of dangerous instances or near misses with other ships.

A few weeks before the accident, USS Fitzgerald was involved in an incident near Sasebo in Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture when a junior officer became “confused by the surface contact picture.” The destroyer’s then-commanding officer was absent from the bridge at the time, the report noted.

The report records "routine, almost casual, violations of standing orders" on the bridge. Personal distrust led the officer of the deck at the time of the collision to avoid communicating with the combat information center.

The voyage management system on the destroyer suffered from issues that led the crew to cannibalize the broken VMS station in the captain's quarters to keep the system operating.

The destroyer had also been without a quartermaster chief petty officer, a key leader who helps navigate a warship and train its sailors, since 2015, the report says.

The crew suffered from poor morale, a dysfunctional chief's mess and a high operational tempo leaving sailors little time to train or complete vital certifications.

Following the collision, the crew of the Fitzgerald was administered a “rules of the road” test for sailing. Only three of the ship's 22 officers scored over 80 percent and seven failed to achieve 50 percent.

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