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US Navy fires commanders over deadly collision

Seven sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald struck a Philippine container ship in June. The Navy has blamed "inadequate leadership" for the crash.

The US Navy relieved several senior commanders of duty late Thursday over a deadly collision with a commercial container ship in June. The USS Fitzgerald struck the Philippine vessel off the coast of Japan, resulting in the death of seven US sailors.

Fortunately, no one aboard the ACX Crystal container ship was killed.

"The collision was avoidable, and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship," said the Navy's 7th Fleet in a statement, adding that "flawed" teamwork also led to the deadly crash.

Commanders Bryce Benson and Sean Babbitt, along with Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin have all been stripped of their duties, and more than a dozen other sailors will be punished for their conduct.

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US Navy destroyer, merchant ship collide

The Navy said that the trio had shown "inadequate leadership," but that it could not release specific details as the investigation into the accident was ongoing.

According to Admiral William Moran, vice chief of naval operations, the team responsible for keeping watch on the ship's bridge had "lost situational awareness," leaving them unprepared to respond in time once the container ship was spotted.

The crash occurred during the early morning hours of June 17, when the bow of the ACX Crystal smashed into the USS Fitzgerald's right side, flooding one of the berthing areas. Twenty-eight of the soldiers sleeping in the cabin were able to escape and were later rescued, but seven drowned as water flooded the area without 30 to 60 seconds of the collision.

The Japanese Navy, which aided in rescue operations, is conducting its own investigation separate from the US inquiry.

es/kms (AP, dpa)

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