Five of the seven American sailors who died after USS Fitzgerald collided with 29,000-ton ACX Crystal, off the coast of Japan may have been almost instantly “incapacitated” and died quickly. Citing a preliminary Navy analysis, an unidentified defense official claimed that the assessment was based on the point of impact and the berths in which the Navy sailors were presumably sleeping.
The collision caused significant damage on Fitzgerald’s starboard side directly next to the berthing spaces, ripping the US warship open and causing water to pour in. The US Navy is reportedly trying to corroborate accounts suggesting that the remaining two victims tried to help the other five who were trapped in the flooded area. But the official tells CNN that “at some point, the ship somehow lost communication” with both sailors who were later found dead.
It also appears that the berthing compartment collapsed inward due to the collision, making it difficult for the people inside to get out. Whether or not the order to shut the watertight hatch to the berthing area came while the two sailors were still alive may never be known, according to the official. The investigation could determine who gave the order, although the decision was deemed necessary since the water had already started flooding into other compartments including a deck below.
The US Navy is still awaiting the completion of all the investigations before making any conclusions about the actions of the crew and decisions for any potential disciplinary action. There are also no assumptions yet regarding the timing of the decision to close the watertight hatch.
The probe is currently ongoing in the US Navy, the US Coast Guard, and Japanese naval and maritime authorities. Investigators are using the Fitzgerald’s Aegis weapons system and ACX Crystal’s voyage data recorder which both contain details on the ships’ movements, including its location, direction, speed and other data to determine the cause of the US Destroyer Collision early Saturday off the Izu Peninsula, west of Tokyo.