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Probe Launched Over Delay in Reporting US Navy Ship, Merchant Vessel Collision

Almost one hour after a collision that would claim the lives of seven US Navy sailors, the containership that had crashed into the USS Fitzgerald hadn’t reported the incident—and officials can’t figure out what caused the delay.

The Japan Transport Safety Board and Japanese Coast Guard launched an investigator into the incident on Monday, according to the Japan Times.

Sailors aboard the 29,000-ton ACX Crystal told the Japan Times that the incident occurred around 1:30 a.m., not 2:25 a.m. as originally reported by the Japanese Coast Guard. The Crystal’s navigation route shows abrupt turn occurring at 1:30 a.m. when the accident first occurred indicating it had gotten off path, according to MarineTraffic, a ship tracker. The Crystal reversed and returned to the scene of the crash at 2:20 a.m. NYK Line, the Japan-based transportation company operating the merchant ship, agreed to the revised timeframe.

A spokeswoman for the ship’s operator refused to say what the crew was doing during the 50 minutes, but the investigation will include poring through communications records from that timeframe, officials said Monday.

As Tokyo scours the facts Japanese officials are “continuously enlisting US cooperation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday, the Japan Times noted.

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The deceased sailors were from all around the US, Axios reported Monday. Sailors Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Virginia; Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego; Ngoc T. Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Connecticut; Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas; Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, California; Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Maryland; and Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio, were in their bunks asleep when the incident occurred, the US 7th Fleet reported Monday.

Mia Sykes, a mother of one of the sailors, said that her son informed her that sleeping quarters immediately began taking on water following impact, the Chicago Tribune reported. Four men in her son’s berth died, including the ones on bunks immediately above and below him, did not survive.  Many of the ship’s 300 sailors went up to the guns thinking the ship was under attack, she said. “You have to realize most of them are 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds living with guilt,” Sykes explained, adding, “But I told him, ‘there’s a reason you’re still here and make that count.’”

USS Fitzgerald Crash - Sputnik International
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The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer displaces just 6,800 tons before the much larger cargo ship struck its forward starboard. Sixteen hours passed before the vessel to return to port, the 7th Fleet said. 

“Sailors and community members from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, are rallying around the crew and families of USS Fitzgerald,” the Commander of US Naval Forces Japan said in a June 19 statement. “Collectively, we mourn the loss of our seven shipmates.”

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