Investigating officer finds ship’s Ops room filled with “piss bottles” after collision at sea

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Jan. 19, 2018) The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) arrives at the port of Pascagoula, Miss., Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 aboard the heavy lift transport vessel MV Transshelf. Fitzgerald will begin restoration and modernization work at Huntington Ingalls' Industries shipyard in Pascagoula. (U.S. Navy photo by David L. Stoltz/Released)

An internal probe into the 2017 collision involving an American destroyer uncovered a rash of issues with the vessel, crew and command- and matters only seemed to get worse as the investigation went on.

The investigation -headed by Rear Admiral Brian Fort- surrounds the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-52), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that collided with the container ship MV ACX Crystal in June of 2017, leaving seven dead American Sailors, multiple injuries, and a black mark on the ship’s history.

In the final report, a troubling pattern of routine violations emerged, ranging from a bridge that lacked leadership during night voyages to a degree of distrust among junior officers that led to lack of communication with the combat information center, the destroyer’s “nerve center.”

According to the Navy Times, Fort’s investigation of the CIC revealed urine-filled bottles, exercise equipment, malfunctioning equipment and crew members that didn’t know how to use the electronics they were supposed to be manning.

Furthermore, the ship lacked a quartermaster chief petty officer, a vital leadership position that aids in navigation and Sailor training.

All in all, Fort deduced that the ship suffered from low morale, poor conditions, and a tempo of operations that left Sailors too tired and exhausted to do meaningful work or training. To make matters worse, officers aboard the ship appeared to be indifferent to the suffering of their subordinates.

“FTZ’s command leadership was unaware of just how far below standards their command had drifted,” Fort wrote in the report. “Had the (commanding officer) and (executive officer) critiqued the near-collision, they may have identified the root causes uncovered by this investigation.”

While the investigation was completed not long after the collision, the report was held back from public release until the Pentagon could properly explain what happened to the families of Sailors Xavier Martin, Dakota Rigsby, Shingo Douglass, Tan Huynh, Noe Hernandez, Carlos Sibayan and Gary Rehm, who were killed during the collision.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Sarah Coppock, who failed to communicate with the CIC prior to the incident, pleaded guilty to a dereliction of duty charge during a 2018 court-martial.

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