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Navy report shows heroism on USS Fitzgerald after collision

gettyimages 696843888 Navy report shows heroism on USS Fitzgerald after collision

US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port US Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa prefecture on June 17, 2017. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

By Caitlin M. Kenney

The Department of the Navy released a Supplemental Preliminary Inquiry into the injuries and deaths of seven sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald June 17.

The USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship at 1:30 in the morning after departing from Yokosuka, Japan. The report’s focus was “limited to the events that occurred after the collision.”

Here are some highlights from the report:

Water flooded the ship rapidly and debris impeded escape

The report states that Berthing 2, where a large hole was ripped into the starboard side from the collision, “was nearly flooded within a span of 30 to 60 seconds. By the time the third sailor to leave arrived at the ladder, the water was already waist deep.”

There were 35 sailors in Berthing 2 at the time of the collision and 28 made it out.

Debris, including mattresses and wall lockers, “floated in the aisles between racks in Berthing 2, impeding sailors’ ability to get down from their racks and their ability to exit the space.”

Sailors saved lives as water rose quickly around them

During the evacuation, two sailors remained at the bottom of a port side ladder to help others get out, according to the report. They eventually had to leave Berthing 2 because of the rising water.

Once they were through the watertight scuttle and in Berthing 1, “they continued to search, reaching into the dark water to try to find anyone they could. From the top of the ladder, these two sailors were able to pull two other sailors from the flooded compartment. Both of the rescued sailors were completely underwater when they were pulled to safety.”

A sledgehammer was used to reach the commanding officer, who was hanging from the side of the ship

The commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald was in his cabin when the container ship collided, severely damaging his cabin and trapping him. He managed to call the bridge for help.

“Five sailors used a sledgehammer, kettlebell, and their bodies to break through the door into the CO’s cabin,” the report says. They then had to remove debris from the cabin in order to crawl in.

“The rescue team tied themselves together with a belt in order to create a makeshift harness as they retrieved the CO, who was hanging from the side of the ship,” the report adds.

FC1 Rehm saved a sailor before he himself drowned

As the water rose up to their necks, sailors “moved forward slowly and assisted each other,” as they made their way to a ladder.

A sailor reported that during the evacuation, FC1 Gary Leo Rehm, Jr. “pushed him out from under a falling locker.” Rehm’s body was the last to be recovered from the USS Fitzgerald.

Read the full report here.

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney | Caitlin@ConnectingVets.com

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