January 17, 2018 / 12:17 AM / a month ago

Ex-U.S. Navy officers face negligent homicide charges over ship collisions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The commanding officers of two U.S. Navy destroyers involved in deadly collisions last year in the Pacific Ocean face courts-martial and military criminal charges including negligent homicide, the U.S. Navy said in a statement on Tuesday.

Filing charges against the officers marks the Navy’s latest effort to address the problems that led to collisions involving its warships in Asia, in which 17 sailors were killed.

The Navy has already dismissed several senior officers, including the commander of the Seventh Fleet, as a result of the collisions.

Evidence supporting the charges against the commanders and several lower-ranking officers who served on the ships will be reviewed soon in investigative hearings, according to the Navy’s statement.

“The announcement of an Article 32 hearing and referral to a court-martial is not intended to and does not reflect a determination of guilt or innocence related to any offenses,” the statement added.

The commanding officer of the USS John S. McCain guided missile destroyer, which collided with a merchant ship near Singapore in August, faces charges of dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide, the statement said.

The commanding officer and three other officers on the USS Fitzgerald guided missile destroyer, which collided with a Philippine container ship in June, face charges including dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide, the Navy said.

Results from Navy investigations released in November found that both accidents were the result of human error by sailors aboard the ships, but determined that no single person could be blamed for the accidents.

Beyond the courts-martial, the Navy is conducting additional administrative actions for members of both crews, including non-judicial punishment for four crewmembers of each vessel, according to the Navy statement on Tuesday.

Reporting by Eric Beech and Julia Harte; Editing by Eric Walsh and Sandra Maler

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