Crew errors to blame for deadly Navy collisions, report says

In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. (James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP)

(ABC)– Poor decisions and lax standards made by the crews of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain contributed to the deadly collisions last summer that killed 17 sailors, according to a new Navy investigation.

“Both of these accidents were preventable and the respective investigations found multiple failures by watch standers that contributed to the incidents,” Admiral John Richardson, the chief of Naval operations, said in a statement. “We must do better.”

On June 17, the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine container ship off the coast of Japan, killing seven sailors and injuring three others.

On Aug. 21, the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker just outside the port of Singapore. That collision killed 10 sailors and injured five others.

The rarity of the back-to-back collisions prompted the Navy to conduct a comprehensive review of its operations worldwide. The top leadership of both ships were subsequently relieved of their commands.

“We are a Navy that learns from mistakes and the Navy is firmly committed to doing everything possible to prevent an accident like this from happening again,” said Richardson. “We must never allow an accident like this to take the lives of such magnificent young sailors and inflict such painful grief on their families and the nation.”

The Navy investigation found that the “watch teams” on the Fitzgerald’s bridge failed to carry out basic Navy safety and navigation procedures, and they “failed to adhere to well-established protocols put in place to prevent collisions,” the investigation found.

That included not filing an appropriate scheme for transiting through the busy waterways outside of Tokyo and notifying the ship’s commanding officer when it approached nearby ships as required by Navy regulations. The ship’s captain was asleep in his quarters when the deadly collision occurred at 1:30 a.m. local time, according to the investigation.

The McCain collision was also deemed to have been avoidable and and “resulted primarily from complacency, over-confidence and lack of procedural compliance,” the investigation found.

“A major contributing factor to the collision was sub-standard level of knowledge regarding the operation of the ship control console,” particularly regarding the ship’s steering system prior to the collision, according to the investigation.

It also found that the watch team’s response to a perceived loss of steering made the situation worse.

Meanwhile, the crew’s decisions were compounded by an earlier decision by the ship’s commanding officer to delay the additional manning of key positions in the engine room and rear steering needed to transit busy waterways.

Proper manning at those stations could have corrected the mistakes made by the watch team on the bridge, the investigation determined.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s