US Navy captains are charged with negligent homicide over deadly collisions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 12:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 10:26pm

US Navy officers involved in deadly ship collisions that killed a combined 17 sailors last year will face a variety of criminal charges, including negligent homicide, the service announced Tuesday night.

The individuals include commanders Bryce Benson and Alfredo Sanchez, the former captains of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, respectively. The Fitzgerald collided off the southern coast of Japan with a larger vessels on June 17, killing seven sailors, while the McCain struck another ship on August 21 near Singapore, killing 10.

Three other officers aboard the Fitzgerald also will face charges, said Navy Captain Gregory Hicks, a service spokesman. The service did not identify them by name Thursday, but they include two lieutenants and one lieutenant junior grade. They and Benson also face charges of dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel.

Sanchez faces the same three charges in connection with the McCain accident, Hicks said in a statement. In addition, the Navy is examining one charge of dereliction of duty against a chief petty officer, a senior enlisted leader on the ship.

Separately, the service also is moving forward with administrative discipline for four other members of both the Fitzgerald and McCain, Hicks said.

The potential courts-martial are the latest fallout to the collisions, which shocked the Navy, prompted congressional hearings and has left the service short two US$1.8 billion destroyers. Navy Admiral John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, has promised that the service will get back to basics and emphasise the fundamentals of good seamanship.

The service announced in November that it had found through internal investigations that both catastrophes were prevented and occurred due to multiple failures by service members who were standing watch the nights of the accidents.

Richardson disclosed at a Pentagon news conference November 2 that he had assigned Admiral James “Frank” Caldwell to serve as a consolidated disposition authority for legal cases related to the collisions. The term defines a senior officer who oversees cases that can be both criminal and administrative in nature.