Delay in reporting of deadly US destroyer collision raises questions

The United States Coast Guard will on Tuesday start interviewing the crew of a Philippines-flagged container ship which collided with a USA warship in Japanese waters killing seven American sailors.

The destroyer still has a human crew, however, most of which was likely asleep around 2:30 a.m. local time when it collided with the Crystal. No one knows what caused the crash and there are multiple investigations underway.

There are clues, however, that explain how something like the Fitzgerald's collision could happen, including photographs of the ships involved, navigation data about the container ship ACX Crystal and the experience the Navy has had with past mishaps.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Japanese coastguard, Takeshi Aikawa, said that the collision happened at 1:30 a.m.

The Philippine ship is 29,060 tons and is 222 meters long, the coast guard said. Japan's Transport Safety Board also started an accident investigation.

He said judging from the Crystal's path, after the collision, it veered dramatically off-course after the impact, corrected itself, and continued to sail its course before making a U-turn to see what had been hit, arriving back near the USS Fitzgerald about an hour later. He said any differences would have to be clarified in the investigation.

A spokeswoman for the NYK Line, the ship's operator, agreed with the earlier timing, but she could not provide details about what the ship was doing for the 50 minutes between the time of the collision and when it was reported.

Mia Sykes of Raleigh, North Carolina, told The Associated Press on Sunday that her 19-year-old son Brayden Harden was knocked out of his bunk by the impact, and water immediately began filling the berth. He said considering the damage that was done to the ship, many more people could have died. He said the case is being investigated as possible professional negligence but that no criminal charges have been made so far.

At a press conference held yesterday at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin said that the ship suffered severe damage rapidly flooding three large compartments that included one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew.

The victims were Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut; Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.

Among the seven U.S. Navy sailors who died in the Saturday collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged container ship off Japan were an OH man expecting to retire soon, a Maryland man who was his father's best friend, and a former volunteer firefighter in his Virginia hometown.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was investigating with the cooperation of the USA side and every effort would be made to maintain regional deterrence in the face of North Korea, which has recently conducted a series of missile tests.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley promised an investigation into the incident.

Although the collision occurred in Japanese waters, under a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that defines the scope of the U.S. military's authority in Japan, the U.S. Navy could claim it has the authority to lead the investigations.

Connecticut's governor has ordered flags to fly at half-staff in Huynh's honor.

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

Almost an hour passed before the crew of a container ship reported its collision with a United States destroyer, according to the Japanese coast guard, raising more questions about the sequence of events that ultimately led to the death of seven American sailors. The oldest was a 37-year-old from OH, just three months short of retirement.

Sykes says her son told her that four men in his berth, including those sleeping on bunks above and below him died, while three died in the berth above his. "You have to realize a lot of them are 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds living with guilt".

"I ask all of you to keep the affected families in your thoughts and prayers, and respect their privacy as we work to get them the answers they deserve regarding their loved ones".