The Navy has just released preliminary information regarding the officers involved in the tragic Fitzgerald crash that took place last year on July 17th when the battle destroyer made contact with a civilian merchant shipping vessel. Seven sailors died in the accident.
Two of the three officers involved in the accident still have their names concealed, but will be made public at a hearing later this week.
Lt. j.g. Sarah Coppock was the officer in charge—the officer of the deck (OOD) early on that fateful day as the Fitzgerald made its way through Japanese waters. She will face a court-martial tomorrow and will be held on the charges of dereliction resulting in death.
As the officer of the deck, Coppock was tasked with taking charge of navigation when the commanding officer stepped away. She is also charged with failing to follow a standing order as well as failing to comply with international water traffic laws.
Coppock was responsible for communicating with the ship’s combat center, reporting incidents to the skipper, operating the vessel in high-traffic areas, and altering the crew of imminent collisions.
When the Navy refused to make their initial investigation public, a report was released with further details showing that Coppock didn’t attempt to contact the other vessel and didn’t attempt to avoid them through maneuver until the destroyer had less than a minute until collision.
Even worse, the Fitzgerald crew had zero warning before the mammoth shipping vessel plowed into the starboard side. The impact crushed sailors’ living quarters in under 60 seconds, the review found.
The ship’s captain Commander Bryce Benson was sleeping when the collision happened. It hit his sleeping quarters and he was rescued by members of the crew as he held onto the side of the ship for dear life.
He will face an Article 32 hearing later this month to determine if he will also be court-martialed for negligence or misconduct.
Other lower leadership will also face severe, but less serious charges and punishments.