Navy ship USS Fitzgerald was likely at fault when it collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship near Japan last month, two unnamed officials told CNN.
The investigation is still in its infancy, but the sources said the initial findings point to the collision being the result of “multiple errors” on behalf of the Navy crew and a failure to take action in the minutes leading up to the crash.
It appeared the crew failed to acknowledge the merchant ship’s path and may not have sounded an alarm, the officials said. This could explain why some sailors were in their berthing compartments and the commander was in his cabin when the collision happened.
The merchant signaled to the Fitzgerald with flashing lights that it was coming and then steered sharply right but failed to avoid the collision, according to a report by ACX Crystal’s Capt. Ronald Advincula to the ship’s Japanese owner, Dainichi Investment Corporation. Reuters obtained the report but could not verify it.
The collision, which happened in clear weather in Tokyo Bay in the early morning of June 17, killed seven U.S. sailors and injured several others.
The hull of the ship was badly damaged on the starboard side under the water line, and if it weren’t for the quick action of the crew, the ship could easily have sunk, top Navy officials said.
Immediately after the crash, the Japanese coast guard began investigating the collision as potential professional negligence. Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Navy are doing their own investigations.
“We are in the early stages of the investigation process to develop a comprehensive picture of what caused the collision and do not have any definitive information to release at this time,” Rear Admiral Dawn Cutler, U.S. Navy Chief of Information, said in a statement. “It is premature to speculate on causation or any other issues. Once we have a detailed understanding of the facts and circumstances, we will share those findings with the Fitzgerald families, our Congressional oversight committees and the general public.”