Ever since the deadly June 17th collision between the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke Class destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald and a significantly larger merchant ship in the Tokyo Bay, speculation has been rampant about who could be to blame for such an egregious error. Although the investigation has not yet been completed, the U.S. Navy announced on Thursday that they would be relieving the ship’s command of duty.
Despite the ongoing investigation, the U.S. Navy has made it clear that while the fault may not have been entirely on the USS Fitzgerald, the incident could not have occurred if the ship’s bridge crew had properly been attending to their duties. While the crew of the ACX Crystal, the merchant ship that collided with the Fitzgerald, may have been able to act faster to avoid the collision, this incident and the Navy’s decision, clearly indicate that the crash, which happened in clear weather, was the result of failed leadership on the destroyer.
The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald sailors, injured three more, and damaged both ships,” the 7th Fleet said in a statement.
Commander Bryce Benson, who was seriously injured in the collision, has been formally relieved of his command, after being temporarily relieved for medical care after the incident. As the ship’s commander, Benson was ultimately responsibility for the safety of the ship and its crew.