Ex-commanders face negligent homicide charges over deadly Navy collisions

Ex-commanders face negligent homicide charges over deadly Navy collisions

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, the Navy's top surface warfare officer, will depart the service sooner than expected, the latest fallout in an ongoing probe into a rash of collisions in the Western Pacific that killed 17 sailors over the summer.

The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

Several officers have been relieved since the fatal collisions, including the commander of the 7th Fleet and the commanders and executive officers of the Fitzgerald and the McCain.

Fewer officers from the McCain are being charged. The service did not identify them by name Thursday, but they include two lieutenants and one lieutenant junior grade. The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide. Alfredo J. Sanchez served on the USS John S. McCain.

The Navy has been reeling from tough questions arising from the two collisions. "Also, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a chief petty officer", the service added.


"In this job, I've spent three-and-a-half years traveling around the world spending time with our Surface Force and the men and women who bring life, energy and goal to our ships", he said.

Citing anonymous sources, both the U.S. Naval Institute and Defense News claimed an ongoing investigation by Adm. James Caldwell, head of the Navy's reactor program, into accidents involving the warships McCain, Fitzgerald, Lake Champlain and Antietam previous year recommended the dismissal of Rowden.

The actions, including charges against several lower-ranking officers, were announced Tuesday by the Navy's chief spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks.

Rowden said he believed Navy leadership would "move out smartly" to implement recommendations from a comprehensive review commissioned immediately after the second collision, that of the destroyer USS John S. McCain, in August.

In a report released last November, the Navy concluded that the two crashes, as well as a third collision in May and a ship grounding, were all avoidable, and resulted from widespread failures by the crews and commanders who didn't quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies.

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