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US Destroyer Struck By Container Ship Failed To Respond To Warnings

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed by a tugboat upon its arrival at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru HanaiThe Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed by a tugboat upon its arrival at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

A U.S. destroyer stayed on a deadly collision course with a container ship more than three times its size despite warnings, the captain of the of the cargo vessel told reporters.

Several U.S. and Japanese investigators are trying to determine how the ACX Crystal, a Philippine-flagged merchant ship, slammed into the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald in waters south of Japan before dawn on June 17, killing seven members of the crew and injuring several others.

The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan in photo received June 17, 2017. Courtesy of U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Handout via REUTERS
The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan in photo received June 17, 2017. Courtesy of U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Handout via REUTERS

The ACX Crystal flashed its lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” moved into its path, Captain Ronald Advincula told Japanese investigators looking into the matter, according to an exclusive Reuters report. He added that the container ship steered hard to starboard to avoid the American warship but was unsuccessful.

The container ship smashed into the starboard side of the U.S. destroyer, ripping it open. The ship sustained “significant damage,” much of which was below the waterline. A machinery room, the communications center, and several berthing compartments were wrecked in the collision. The incident caused the greatest loss of life for the U.S. Navy in 17 years, since the tragic bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen’s Aden Harbor in 2000.

Six investigations followed the fatal collision. There have been two internal hearings by the Navy, a probe by the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as investigations by the Japan Transport Safety Board, the Japanese Coast Guard, and the Philippine government. The investigations are focused on how a destroyer equipped with advanced radar be struck by a significantly larger vessel.

Questions about some of the ACX Crystal’s actions before and after the crash remain. For instance, the vessel made a complete U-turn around the time of the collision, and afterwards, the container ship waited about an hour before reporting it to the Japanese coast guard. The captain simply said there was “confusion” on the bridge.

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Ryan Pickrell
the authorRyan Pickrell
Holds a PhD in International Relations, fluent in Mandarin Chinese, reports on China and the Asia Pacific.

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