Oakville man among 7 Navy sailors killed in collision
WATERTOWN – A local man is one of seven Navy sailors killed on Saturday after the ship they were in collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship four times its size off the coast of Japan.
Ngoc T. Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, was a sonar technician, according to a news release from the Navy.
Huynh had initially been reported missing but were located in flooded berthing compartments in the USS Fitzgerald, after divers gained access to the spaces on Sunday.
“It’s quite tragic, especially when it’s close to home,” said Thomas L. Winn, chairman of the Watertown Town Council. “I feel for the family. I wish them all the best. He’s obviously a hero in our eyes.”
Winn, who does not know Huynh or his family, said he would be praying for them.
“I will be there for the family no matter what they need,” he said, adding, “If they need anything from the town,” he would like to ensure the town is able to meet that need.
Local leaders have also offered their condolences.
“I am terribly saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Sonar Technician Huynh,” Congresswoman Elizabeth H. Esty said. “This young sailor’s death is a reminder of the risks our brave military men and women face each and every day. We mourn with his family and thank them for his service and sacrifice.”
“I am heartbroken by reports that a Connecticut sailor was killed among others who perished on the USS Fitzgerald,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the family. The Navy owes the family and the nation a prompt investigation.”
The Japan-based 7th Fleet identified the other victims on Monday as Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Va.; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, Calif.; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlosvictor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Calif.; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Md.; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.
The ships collided about 2:20 a.m. Saturday, when the Navy said most of the 300 sailors on board would have been sleeping, and authorities have declined to speculate on a cause while the crash remains under investigation.
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, described a harrowing scene as sailors fought to keep the ship from sinking. Most of the damage is below the waterline, including a large gash near the keel, Aucoin said.
“So the water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea. And as you can see now, the ship is still listing, so they had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic,” Aucoin said.
Aucoin said one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged from what he called a significant impact to its side. The destroyer returned to Yokosuka on Saturday evening with the help of tug boats.
The victims might have been killed by the impact of the collision or drowned in the flooding, said Navy spokesman Lt. Paul Newell, who led the media on a visit to get a firsthand look at the mangled destroyer. “The damage was significant,” he said. “This was not a small collision.”
The Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted from the ship’s deck after daybreak Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan with a head injury. Two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were also flown out by helicopter.
Aucoin wouldn’t speculate on the cause of the collision and would order a thorough investigation. Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though the area is particularly busy with sea traffic.
The damage to the destroyer suggests that the container ship, the ACX Crystal, might have slammed into it at a high speed, raising questions about communication between the two vessels in an area where as many as 400 ships pass through every day, according to Japan’s coast guard. Most congestion occurs in the early hours of the day, and fast currents make it a tricky area that requires experience and skill to navigate.
The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet) long, much larger than the 8,315-ton destroyer.
The container ship’s left bow was dented and scraped, but it did not appear to have sustained any major structural damage when it was docked in the Tokyo bay late Saturday.
But on Sunday, a group of accident investigators from the Japanese transport ministry found damage to the container ship that had been hidden under the waterline when it arrived in Tokyo the previous night. Footage from Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a sharp horizontal cut across the bow area, which looked like a shark’s mouth. Many scratches were also seen in the frontal area.
The container ship was seen making a U-turn before the collision on some ship trackers, a move that has raised questions about what happened. Both Aucoin and the Japanese coast guard, however, said it was too early to determine what led to the collision.
The coast guard questioned crew members of the ACX Crystal, and is treating the incident as a case of possible professional negligence, said Masayuki Obara, a regional coast guard official.
All of the ACX Crystal’s 20-member Filipino crew was safe, according to Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., which operates the ship.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a sympathy message to President Donald Trump on Sunday. “We are struck by deep sorrow,” Abe said in the message. “I express my heartfelt solidarity to America at this difficult time.”
Jennifer Adkison of Granbury, Texas, whose 20-year-old son, Bruce Adkison, a fifth-generation sailor, survived the collision, said in a Facebook message that families are grieving for those who died and trying to get clothing and other items to survivors who lost all their possessions.
“The only other day I have been so overwhelmed with joy to hear my son’s voice was the day he was born,” Adkison said.