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Navy to discipline top officers over USS Fitzgerald crash

Adm. William F. Moran, vice chief of U.S. naval operations, told reporters Thursday that about a dozen sailors who were aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a container ship June 17 off the coast of Japan will face disciplinary action, including the top two officers and top enlisted sailor. Seven crew members were killed in the disaster.

Moran said most of the punishments will be meted out on Friday, and the ship's leaders — Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was captain at the time; his second-in-command, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt; and senior enlisted sailor for the ship, Command Master Chief Brice A. Baldwin — will be permanently stripped of command. He also said the sailors who were on watch on the Fitzgerald's bridge, who "at some point ... lost situational awareness," are among those facing discipline. The investigation into whether the Fitzgerald crew is solely responsible for the crash is ongoing.

Moran said investigators are still trying to determine exactly what took place right before the collision, when the container ship ripped a huge hole into the smaller Fitzgerald early in the morning. Most of the sailors were asleep when the accident occurred, and a majority of those who died were sleeping closest to where the water came rushing in, The Washington Post reports. Survivors said they had to try to escape as items like mattresses and lockers floated by in the water, and several sailors, trying to keep the ship from sinking, were forced to seal a door with other sailors still inside.