US Navy captain indicted for crash that killed seven sailors

Written by Ashley Love, CNN

A court martial will take place for the commander of a US Navy ship that was damaged in a collision with a merchant vessel in 2017.

Lt. j.g. Alfredo Gonzalez-Aguilar is charged with dereliction of duty and dereliction of duty resulting in serious injury or death. CNN has obtained a copy of the court martial document.

The 2019 charges, related to allegations he caused the USS Fitzgerald to sail in the wrong direction and hit the container ship ACX Crystal, center on Japan’s main island of Honshu, were laid out in a redacted transcript of a hearing held on October 27.

Aguilar, a commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald, is accused of the following:

Dereliction of duty

Destruction of military property

Actual or attempted wilful dereliction of duty

Possession and use of alcohol

Obstructing a commander in the performance of his duty

Naval Corps counsel declined to comment on the accusations. CNN was also unable to confirm the authenticity of any of the court martial documents released to the public, but sources confirmed they were accurate.

Defence lawyer Peter Barr had no comment on the case.

The accident left seven sailors dead and prompted a formal investigation into what led to the ship’s captain being relieved of duty. No charges have been filed against the captain.

The ACX Crystal was sailing from South Korea to Japan when it collided with the USS Fitzgerald on June 17, 2017. It is not clear from the transcripts what caused the accident, but the Fitzgerald had been sailing into a typhoon, knocking out its propulsion system.

The ACX Crystal was carrying nearly 10,000 deadweight tons of cargo, and its load was 6.5 times the maximum capacity of the Fitzgerald. It sustained more than $3 million in damage.

Three other sailors were also punished as a result of the collision. The defense argues that the Navy’s administrative procedure for punishing them was “more severe than necessary,” and records show they were shifted between classes for the rest of their careers.

The court-martial, expected to last at least a week, will determine whether or not Gonzalez-Aguilar should be court martialed. If convicted, he could face dismissal from the service.

Leave a Comment