Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Update on US Naval Accidents with Cargo Vessel and Tanker Which Left 17 Dead

Commanding Officers to Face Criminal Charges
Shipping News Feature
US – JAPAN – The US Navy has announced that the former Commanding officers of the two US warships involved in the fatal collisions in Asian waters last year, the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S McCain, will face criminal charges, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), including dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide.

On June 17, the USS Fitzgerald collided with the 30,000 dwt container ship, the APX Crystal at the entrance of the Tokyo Bay, resulting in the deaths of seven sailors. Commander Bryce Benson, Executive Officer Commander Sean Babbitt and Ship Command Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin were relieved of shipboard duty on 17 August whilst around 12 other sailors received ’non judicial punishments’.

Courts-martial proceedings/Article 32 hearings are being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against Fitzgerald crew members. The members' ranks include one Commander (the Commanding Officer), two Lieutenants, and one Lieutenant Junior Grade. The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide.

On August 21, the USS John S. McCain collided with the Liberian-flagged 30,000 gross tonne tanker, the Alnic MC, en route to Singapore, resulting in the deaths of 10 sailors. Rear Admiral Charles Williams, Commander Task Force 70, and Captain Jeffrey Bennett, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, were removed from their positions due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command. The commanding officer Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez and executive officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, were both relieved due to a loss of confidence in their abilities.

For the John S. McCain, one court-martial proceeding/Article 32 hearing is being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against one Commander (the Commanding Officer). The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide. Also, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a Chief Petty Officer.

The announcement of an Article 32 hearing and referral to a court-martial is not intended to and does not reflect a determination of guilt or innocence related to any offenses. All individuals alleged to have committed misconduct are entitled to a presumption of innocence.

Additional administrative actions are being conducted for members of both crews including non-judicial punishment for four Fitzgerald and four John S. McCain crewmembers.