Details emerged Monday on the seven U.S. Navy sailors found dead on the USS Fitzgerald after a merchant vessel struck the warship miles off the coast of Japan.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet identified the sailors killed after Saturday's crash as:
- Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Va.
- Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, Calif.
- Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Conn.
- Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
- Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Calif.
- Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Md.
- Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
Huynh’s sister told WVIT-TV that her brother “had the brightest smile.” Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy ordered flags be flown at half-staff in honor of Huynh.
Gary Rehm Jr., 37, was three months shy from retiring before the collision killed him, according to The Chronicle.
“Gary was one of those guys that always had a smile on his face,” Daniel Kahle, Navy veteran, told The Chronicle. “(Gary was) such a great guy and (it’s) such a great loss. He needs to be remembered for the person we all knew him to be.”
The bodies were found in previously flooded compartments, including sleeping quarters. Searchers gained access to these spaces that were damaged during the collision and brought the remains to Naval Hospital Yokosuka, the Navy said Saturday.
The Navy said that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet.
The USS Fitzgerald was back at its home port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo by sunset Saturday. The 29,060-ton Philippine-flagged container ship, ACX Crystal, was berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where officials were questioning crew members about the cause of the nighttime crash. The ACX Crystal's crew were all Filipinos.
After stabilizing the USS Fitzgerald, the destroyer USS Dewey had joined other American and Japanese vessels and aircraft in the search for the missing sailors.
The U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement that the crash damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room. The majority of the nearly 300 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the pre-dawn crash.
Japan’s coast guard was investigating why it took nearly an hour for the collision to be reported. A Japanese coast guard official said Monday that they are investigating what the crew of the ACX Crystal was doing before reporting the crash.
The coast guard initially said the collision occurred at 2:20 a.m. because the cargo ship had reported it at 2:25 a.m. and said it just happened. After interviewing Filipino crewmembers, the coast guard has changed the collision time to 1:30 a.m.
Japanese coast guard crews were planning to retrieve a device with communications records to examine further details of the crash, one official said. Japan’s Transport Safety Board also began an accident investigation Monday.
A U.S. Navy official said it is sticking with the 2:20 a.m. timing for the crash, the time reported by the Fitzgerald.
When asked about the earlier time cited by the coast guard, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders said, “That is not our understanding.” He said any differences would have to be clarified in the investigation.
Japanese coast guard officials are investigating the case as possible professional negligence, but no criminal charges have been pressed so far.
Nippon Yusen, the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship, said in a statement that it is collaborating with the ship owner and fully cooperating with the investigation by the coast guard.
“We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates,” Sean Stackley, acting Navy secretary said. “As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port.”
The USS Fitzgerald collision is the third mishap since late January involving Navy warships near Japan.
On Jan. 31, USS Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, damaged its propellers and spilled hydraulic oil into the ocean after running aground off the coast of Japan. At the time, officials told Fox News the warship had dragged its anchor after 30 knot winds blew the ship from its anchorage onto shoal water grounding.
Last month, USS Lake Champlain, a guided-missile cruiser, hit a South Korean fishing boat, near the Korean peninsula but no injuries were reported.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.