Two Navy commanders face military criminal charges after two U.S. destroyers collided with merchant ships in 2017, taking the lives of 17 sailors altogether.
Cmdr. Bryce Benson, former commander of the USS Fitzgerald, and Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez, former commander of the USS John S. McCain, are facing charges related to dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide, the U.S. Navy announced Tuesday.
The USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship in June off the coast of Japan, taking the lives of seven sailors, and the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in August off the coast of Singapore, taking the lives of 10 sailors.
Two Navy investigations completed in November revealed that multiple failures, such as sub-standard performances from both the crews and the commanders involved in the accidents, contributed to the accidents.
The Navy’s top officer, Adm. John Richardson, who is the chief of operations, said that the accidents were preventable.
The commanders will face the charges at Article 32 preliminary hearings in the near future.
Several other junior officers are also facing similar charges. Other sailors will be penalized for their actions, but will not face judicial punishment.
Additionally, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, head of Naval Surface Forces, will retire earlier than expected, per the recommendation of Adm. James F. Caldwell, director of Naval Reactors, in response to the collisions. Caldwell had recommended Rowden be fired.