Former commanding officers face negligent homicide charges over fatal US Navy destroyer incidents

Negligent homicide charges are to be brought against the former commanding officers of two US Navy guided missile destroyers involved in multiple-fatality accidents in Asian waters last year.

Charges are being brought under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a so-called Article 32 hearing to determine if the officers should face courts martial.

Seven sailors died on the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a container ship off Japan in June. And 10 more sailors died in August when the USS John McCain collided with an oil tanker off of Singapore.

A subsequent Navy investigation report released in November said there were “multiple failures” including a string of crew mistakes and navigational errors.

In the wake of the accidents, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin was relieved of his duties as commander of the 7th Fleet due to loss of confidence in his ability to command.

Top officers from each ship were also removed from their positions.

Now Commander Bryce Benson who commanded the USS Fitzgerald at the time, is facing charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel. Two unnamed lieutenants and one unnamed lieutenant junior grade face the same charges.

And Commander Alfredo Sanchez, who led the USS John McCain at the time of the accident, faces the same charges while an unnamed chief petty officer from the McCain faces a dereliction of duty charge.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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