The U.S. Navy is effectively firing the top leadership from USS Fitzgerald, a U.S. Navy admiral announced Thursday.
Navy Commander Bryce Benson, the commanding officer of USS Fitzgerald, along with the warship’s second in command and the command master chief will be “detached for cause” — or effectively fired — on Friday, Admiral William Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said at The Pentagon.
As the USS Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, proceeded south from her homeport of Yokosuka, Japan at 20 knots in the early morning hours of June 17, more ships appeared and the area became “congested,” Moran said.
Seven sailors drowned in the compartment known as “Berthing 2.” There were 28 other sailors who made it out of the compartment, which flooded quickly.
“It is somewhat amazing that we didn’t lose far more,” Moran said.
According to a report detailing the crew’s effort to keep the ship afloat, sailors escaped flooding spaces in chest and sometimes neck deep water seconds after hitting the Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal on USS Fitzgerald’s starboard side.
The report described the last sailor to escape the flooded Berthing 2. “He was swimming towards the watertight scuttle when he was pulled from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. He reported that when taking his final breath before being saved, he was already submerged and breathed in water.”
The Commanding Officer’s cabin was hit and it took about 25 minutes to recover him, Moran said.
“The rescue team tied themselves together with a belt in order to create a makeshift harness as they retrieved the (commanding officer), who was hanging from the side of the ship,” according to the report.
“Clearly at some point the bridge team lost situational awareness,” said Moran, describing the group of officers and sailors responsible for driving the warship through the water.
In addition to relieving the warship’s top leadership, Moran said about a dozen other sailors also face disciplinary action.
They will face non-judicial punishments yet to be determined.
An announcement is expected tomorrow from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Commander from Japan.
The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John M. Richardson, is expected to release details of the full investigation in a matter of “weeks,” Moran said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews