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American Shipper

Seven dead after containership collides with U.S. Navy vessel off Japan

The ACX Crystal, a containership chartered by Japan’s NYK Line, collided with U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald in the Philippine Sea early Saturday morning.

U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald, Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy

   Seven American sailors were killed and three others severely injured after the ACX Crystal, a containership chartered by Japanese ocean carrier NYK Line, collided with U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald in the Philippine Sea, about 12.5 miles off the coast of Japan at 2:30 a.m. local time on the morning of June 17.
   NYK reports that there were no injuries on board ACX Crystal, or any oil spill from the vessel. However, the U.S. Navy vessel, which is nearly four times smaller than the containership, suffered severe damage and seven sailors assigned to the USS Fitzgerald have been confirmed dead.
   The deceased sailors are Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Va.; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego, Calif.; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Conn.; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, Calif.; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Md.; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio.
   The Japanese Coast Guard, which was the first agency responding to the collision, will be the lead agency handing the aftermath and investigation into the incident.
   Built in 1993, the Fitzgerald is an 8,315-ton, 505-foot long (154 meters) warship. Aided by tug boats, it completed a 50-mile journey to its home port in Yokosuka, Japan at 6:15 p.m. local time on June 17, about 16 hours after the impact.
   According to the Navy, the collision affected the Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room.
   “I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald sailors who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship, and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances,” U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Charles Williams said in a statement.
   Once the ship arrived in Yokosuka, divers began inspecting the damage and developing a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces, according to the Yokosuka-based U.S. 7th Fleet, to which the Fitzgerald is assigned.
   In addition to the seven killed crew members, three other sailors required medical evacuation from the ship, including the vessel’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was transferred by helicopter to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka. He was reported by the Navy as being in stable condition.
   “This has been a difficult day,” U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin said in a statement. “I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew.”
   The Philippines-flagged ACX Crystal, which is owned by Dainichi-Invest Corp., arrived at the No. 6 berth of Oi Terminal in Tokyo Bay around 5 p.m. local time on June 17.
   The nine-year-old containership, which has a gross tonnage of 29,000 tons, is 222 meters long (728 feet) and can carry a crew of 20 with a container capacity of 2,858 TEUs, was operating on NYK’s ‘PX1’ (Phoenix 1) intra-Asia trade line linking Japan, Vietnam and Thailand ports at the time of the collision.
   The vessel’s cargo capacity is shared by NYK with other carriers, including compatriots “K” Line and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL).
   “NYK and the shipowner are fully cooperating with an investigation being conducted by the Japan Coast Guard,” NYK said in a statement released after the collision.
   Media reports from the area have indicated the ACX Crystal made a sharp u-turn that may have led to the collision, but investigating authorities say the cause of the collision is still under examination.