US Navy charges commanders of the destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain with homicide

The commanders of two warships that collided with commercial vessels in the west Pacific last summer, killing 17 sailors, will face negligent homicide and other criminal charges, US Navy officials have released.

Four officers from the destroyer USN Fitzgerald, including the Commanding Officer: Cdr Bryce Benson, will face charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel for the June 17 incident that killed seven sailors off Japan, according to the Navy.

The three other officers, were not identified in the Navy statement. Cdr William Speaks, a Navy spokesman, said that the process for deciding whether the officers will be court-martialed is “very early in the process.”

Cdr Alfredo J. Sanchez, who was in command of the destroyer USN John S. McCain at the time of the Aug. 21 collision near Singapore that killed another 10 sailors, will face the same charges, according to the Navy.

An unidentified chief petty officer also faces a dereliction of duty charge, Navy officials said.

Benson was injured after the ACX Crystal vessel struck his living space on the Fitzgerald, and crew found him clinging to the side of the ship after the collision.

The COs of the destroyers Fitzgerald (above) and John S. McCain will face negligent homicide charges in connection to collisions last summer that killed 17 sailors.

Benson and Sanchez were later relieved of command. It remains unclear when the hearings to decide whether to try the sailors on the charges will begin.

Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, the Navy’s top surface warfare officer, is expected to step down this week ahead of a forthcoming recommendation that he be relieved of his command in relation to the collisions involving the two destroyers over the summer.

Rowden has been the head of surface forces since August 2014. His office sets policy and oversees the manning, training and equipping of surface ships in the Navy.