On Tuesday, the United States Navy announced that a number of officers and the former commanders of two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers involved in collisions that claimed the lives of 17 sailors over the past summer will face criminal charges for their roles in the events.
The sailors were all parts of the command staff of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, each involved in similar collisions with merchant vessels in the Pacific. The charges levied against the group range from dereliction of duty to hazarding a vessel, and even negligent homicide.
“After careful deliberation, today Adm. Frank Caldwell announced that Uniform Code of Military Justice charges are being preferred against individual service members in relation to the collisions,” a Navy statement said.
Among those facing charges are both ships commanders, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez from the McCain and Commander Bryce Benson of the Fitzgerald. Also facing charges are two Lieutenants, and one Lieutenant Junior Grade from the USS Fitzgerald, and one Chief Petty Officer from the USS John S. McCain who were not identified in the press release.
“Additional administrative actions are being conducted for members of both crews including non-judicial punishment for four Fitzgerald and four John S. McCain crewmembers.”
In November, the Navy released their investigations into both the collision of the USS Fitzgerald with the merchant ship ACX Crystal, as well as the USS John S. McCain with the Alnic MC. In both reports, the Navy concluded that the incidents were the result of a lack of training, as well as “multiple failures” within the commands of both Navy vessels. Subsequent reports showed that both ships had serious deficiencies in operations training, which Navy officials have since blamed on a high operational tempo. The decision to charge the ship’s commanders, however, would suggest that the Navy does not consider the operational tempo to be responsible for either crash.