Court Martials for US Naval Personnel Over Cargo Vessel Collisions
The United States Navy is preferring charges against individual service members in relation to collisions with cargo ships by the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain .
The USS Fitzgerald collided with the ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan on June 17, 2017. The USS John S. McCain collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC on August 21, 2017.
A Navy report concluded that both incidents were avoidable. The two collisions cost the lives of 17 US sailors.
“After careful deliberation, Admiral Frank Caldwell announced that Uniform Code of Military Justice charges are being preferred against individual service members in relation to the collisions,” said US Navy Chief of Information (Acting), Captain Greg Hicks.
With respect to the incident involving the USS Fitzgerald, courts-martial proceedings hearings are being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against Fitzgerald members. The members’ ranks include one Commander (the commanding officer), two Lieutenants, and one Lieutenant Junior Grade. The potential charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide.
With regard to the USS John S. McCain, One court- martial proceeding is being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against one Commander (the commanding officer). The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide. Also, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a Chief Petty Officer.
The announcement of a referral to a court-martial is not intended to and does not reflect a determination of guilt or innocence related to any offenses. All individuals alleged to have committed misconduct are entitled to a presumption of innocence.
Additional administrative actions are being conducted for members of both crews including non-judicial punishment for four Fitzgerald and four John S. McCain crewmembers.