Delay in reporting of deadly US destroyer collision raises questions

Claudine Rigal
Juin 20, 2017

Gary Rehm Jr., an Elyria native who died when a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan, was due to retire in several months, according to a cousin.

The collision appears to have happened at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, not 2:30 the Seventh Fleet reported.

"The Coast Guard will be taking the lead in the marine casualty investigation", said Lt. Scott Carr, spokesman for the American investigation team.

"We are fully cooperating with the investigation", said Manami Meguro, a spokeswoman for Nippon Yusen.

Commander of the 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin described a harrowing scene as sailors fought to keep the ship from sinking.

The Japan Coast Guard subsequently revised the time to 1:30am, meaning the container ship waited 55 minutes before contacting the coast guard, according to the Japan Coast Guard.

The other sailors killed were: Dakota Rigsby, 19, of Virginia, Shingo Douglass, 25, of California, Ngoc Huynh, 25, of Connecticut, Noe Hernandez, 26, of Texas, Carlosvictor Sibayan, 23, of California and Xavier Martin, 24, of Maryland.

It is unclear whether there were any warning signs leading up to the collision, and authorities have not speculated on the cause of the crash.

He said one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged from the impact to the ship's side.

The route of the container ship ACX Crystal, provided by vessel-tracking service MarineTraffic, shows that the ship made a sudden turn around 1:30 a.m., as if possible trying to avoid something, before continuing eastward. Most of the crew on the Fitzgerald was asleep when the collision occurred and big container ships like the Crystal are often lightly crewed and use an autopilot.

The family said the Navy told them the cargo ship did not have its lights on at the time, and struck the ship at a high rate of speed. The Japan Coast Guard radioed it after receiving the first report of the collision.

"Because it was in an emergency, the crewmembers may not have been able to place a call", she said.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley says the Navy is deeply saddened and promised a full investigation. "As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port".

Lan Huynh says her brother always "had the brightest smile".

The mother of a U.S. Navy sailor said her son kept diving to try to save his shipmates after a collision at sea until their flooded sleeping berth began running out of air pockets, while other survivors — believing their ship was under attack — hurried to man the guns.

Raleigh, North Carolina, resident Mia Sykes told the AP that her son, Brayden Harden, 19, was knocked out of his bunk by the impact of the crash, and that water immediately began filling the berth. "You have to realize majority are 18, 19 and 20-year-olds living with guilt".

She said she hopes her son, from Herrin, Illinois, can come home to be with family as he works through what happened.

"The way I feel right now is shocked,"Rehm told the paper".

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