(WASHINGTON) — Preliminary findings in the investigation into the collision between the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine containership off the coast of Japan suggest the accident was caused by multiple errors by the Navy crew and a failure to take action before the impact, according to two defense officials in a story reported by CNN.
"They did nothing until the last second," one official said of Fitzgerald's crew, adding that "a slew of things went wrong." A second official said the crash "will wind up being our (the Navy's) fault."
The collision between Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal on June 17 killed seven U.S. sailors. It took place 56 nautical miles off the coast of Honshu, Japan, in an area heavily traveled by commercial shipping.
Both officials said the initial investigation found that the Fitzgerald crew failed to understand and acknowledge the cargo ship was approaching and failed to take any action necessary to avoid the collision. It's also not clear if the crew ever called the commanding officer to come to the bridge.
The preliminary findings will now be reviewed by the 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, even as the investigation continues and they are likely to lead to recommendations about potential punishment.
The Navy issued a statement Friday from Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, Navy chief of information: "We are in the early stages of the investigation process to develop a comprehensive picture of what caused the collision and do not have any definitive information to release at this time. It is premature to speculate on causation or any other issues. Once we have a detailed understanding of the facts and circumstances, we will share those findings with the Fitzgerald families, our congressional oversight committees and the general public."
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