U.S. OFFICIAL: USS FITZGERALD CREW LIKELY AT FAULT IN COLLISION WITH CONTAINERSHIP

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. U.S. Navy Photo

The crew of the USS Fitzgerald was likely at fault in the warship’s collision with a Philippine cargo ship in June and had not been paying attention to their surroundings, according to initial findings in an investigation, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Friday.

Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the USS Fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer, and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald’s waterline, killing seven sailors in what was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen’s Aden harbor in 2000.

“There was not a lot that went right leading up to the crash. There were a string of errors, but they did a lot after the collision to save lives and the ship,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said that in addition to crew members not paying attention to their surroundings, they did not take action until it was too late.

While the investigation is not complete, the official said crew members had given statements and radar data had been gathered, and it was unlikely the findings would change.

A U.S. Navy spokeswoman said the investigation was in the early stages and it was premature to speculate on the causes.

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