Commanders Face Criminal Charges For Ship Collisions That Killed 17 American Sailors

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The commanding officers for two American warships crippled in fatal accidents are facing military criminal charges ranging from negligent homicide to dereliction of duty.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald was involved in a tragic collision with a merchant vessel in June that ended the lives of seven American sailors. Two months later, ten more sailors were killed when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker.

The two 7th Fleet vessels will require hundreds of millions of dollars for repairs. (RELATED: White House Puts Price Tag On Deadly Naval Collisions)

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the former commander of the Fitzgerald, together with three junior officers, face military criminal charges including dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide. Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, former commander of the McCain, faces the same charges, according to USNI News.

The charges come after a comprehensive investigation into the cause of these deadly accidents. Numerous Navy officers, including the former head of the 7th Fleet, have been removed from their commands due to concerns over their leadership abilities. (RELATED: Navy Relieves Senior Officers Of Destroyer Crippled After Fatal Crash) 

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, concluded that the accidents were “avoidable” byproducts of devastating command and training failures on the part of both officers and crew. (RELATED: Basic Errors Caused ‘Avoidable’ Accidents That Killed 17 US Sailors, New Navy Report Reveals)

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