USS Fitzgerald: Former Commanding Officer pleads not guilty

US. NAVY USS Fitzgerald

The former Commanding Officer of the USS Fitzgerald pleaded not guilty to charges related to last year’s collision of the U.S. Navy destroyer with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan.

Cmdr. Bryce Benson is now set to face a general court-martial on charges of negligence and hazarding a vessel, reports USNI News. The trial has been set for January 28, 2019.

Seven U.S. Navy sailors were killed when the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the merchant vessel ACX Crystal on June 17, 2017, while operating about 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

The Fitzgerald was able to return to its home port at Yokosuka under its own power, but the destroyer suffered extensive damage and flooding.

Cmdr. Benson was in his cabin at the time of the collision and became trapped as a result. He was later transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka via helicopter.

In August, Cmdr Benson was relieved of duty“ due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead,” the Seventh Fleet said.

Cmdr. Benson originally faced charges including negligent homicide, however that charge was later dropped.  

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