Navy to relieve USS Fitzgerald leadership following deadly collision

Posted at 7:52 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-18 10:09:42-04

WASHINGTON D.C. - The U.S. Navy has announced it's relieved two officers and a senior enlisted sailor of the USS Fitzgerald in response to a June collision that left seven people dead.

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin have all been relieved of their commands, the Navy says.

The Navy says Cmdr. Benson was relieved due to loss of confidence in his ability to lead. He had previously been temporarily relieved due to medical reasons from injuries sustained during the collision. He will now be reassigned to Naval District Washington at the Washington Navy Yard.

The Navy says Cmdr. Babbit and MCPO Baldwin were relieved due to inadequate leadership that contributed to the lack of watch stander preparedness and readiness.

Several junior officers were also relieved due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information systems watch standers.

In all, a dozen crew members on the destroyer face discipline as a result of the accident, which occurred when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan on June 17.

The Navy released a preliminary report into the accident Thursday, which details the crash with the ACX Crystal and what happened before and after.

According to the report, sailors inside 'Berthing 2', where the impact happened, began yelling "Water on deck!" and "Get out!" within seconds. Sailors staying in that area estimate the space flooded within 30 to 60 seconds.

27 sailors were able to escape, the 41-page report says. The seven closest to point of contact did not.

One of the deceased, Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Rehm Jr., lived in Hampton. Rehm's father says his son's shipmates reported the 37-year-old helped save sailors and died trying to save more.

The report confirms one sailor said Rehm pushed him out from under a falling locker.

Sailors moved through neck-deep water to reach a ladder and climb to safety. Two sailors were completely underwater when they were pulled to safety.

The final sailor pulled to safety had inhaled water and was pulled from the water 'red-faced' with 'bloodshot eyes'.

The report also contains a number of pictures and drawings detailing the damage sustained by the USS Fitzgerald during the collision.