The Japan Coast Guard announced Thursday a recommendation of negligent homicide charges for the officers steering both the Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal during last June’s fatal collision, according to Stars and Stripes.
The recommendation comes after an investigation found that both the Crystal’s second officer and the Fitzgerald’s officer of the deck were responsible for the incident, which resulted in the deaths of seven Fitzgerald sailors off the coast of Yokosuka.
The official charge is “Causing Death and Injury through Negligence in the Pursuit of Social Activities and Endangering Traffic through Negligence in the Pursuit of Social Activities,” according to the Stripes report.
This accident, along with the destroyer McCain’s fatal collision off the coast of Singapore in August of last year, “resulted from complete breakdowns in standard Navy procedures and poor decision-making by officers and sailors on the bridge of the two warships,” a November report stated.
Japan Coast Guard spokesman Yoshihito Nakamura told Stripes that the Fitzgerald crew was at fault because the Crystal was traveling in accordance with Preventing Collisions at Sea regulations, although he blamed the Crystal for not taking any action in avoiding the incident.
U.S. Forces Japan told Military Times, however, that “the sailors involved in the collision were performing their official duties at the time.”
“Pursuant to the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Japan, the U.S. has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction for offenses arising out of any act or omission done in the performance of official duties,” said Capt. Tyler Hopkins, U.S. Forces Japan spokesman.