Working to fix the USS Fitzgerald, learn from crash

Fixing the Fitzgerald, and finding the cause of the crash

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- The June 17 collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a 29,000-ton container ship is said to have left a hole in the Navy destroyer big enough to drive tractor-trailer through.

The full effects of the impact on her hull and superstructure are not yet known.

Seven crew members were killed in flooded berthing areas, and three more were injured, including the destroyer's commanding officer.

Navy officials are reportedly planning to make enough repairs to enable the Fitzgerald's return to a shipyard in the United States, where more extensive work can be completed.

"I don't know the extent of the damage, but unless it is so critically injured it would be cheaper to build a new destroyer, the Navy is going to repair it," said retired Navy captain and former destroyer commanding officer Joe Bouchard.

In addition to fixing the Fitzgerald, there's the matter of figuring out what went wrong.

The Navy and Coast Guard will conduct separate investigations, with the Navy concentrating on the actions of the Fitzgerald's commanding officer and crew, while the Coast Guard will focus on commercial shipping safety issues.

Bouchard says there's much blame to go around.

"It mystifies me why they weren't able to avoid a collision," he said. "The lookout should've seen it; large merchant ships tend to have lights all over them, [and a] very large radar signature. And the Fitzgerald is much more maneuverable."

For comparison, when the Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in 2000, it too was left with a gaping hole in its hull.  It took 14 months to complete repairs and make upgrades to the ship.

The cost to taxpayers for that job was approximately $250 million.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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