Filipino Sailors Say Deadly Collision with US Warship an Accident: Manila

Felipe Villamor
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170627_PH-US-maritime_1000.jpg A rescue team attends to an injured crew member of the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald after it collided with ACX Crystal cargo ship in Shimoda, off the coast of Japan, June 27, 2017.
[Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force Handout/AFP]

The Filipino crew of a container vessel that hit a U.S. warship in Japanese waters, killing seven American sailors, has maintained that the collision was an accident, the Philippines said Tuesday.

But an investigation by U.S. and Japanese authorities was continuing to determine how the USS Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal off Tokyo on June 17, it said.

"As of last week, ACX Crystal was given clearance to proceed to Yokohama for repairs and investigation," Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. "The investigation is still ongoing."

It said that ACX officers had "testified that it was an accident and they had right of way."

"Investigation will look into the principle of last clear chance under maritime law, on who had the opportunity to avoid or prevent coalition," the department said.

A spokesman declined to say whether the Filipino crew members were still in Japan or had been allowed to return home.

The statement confirmed that the cargo ship's skipper, identified by the Japanese media as Ronald Advincula, told investigators that the ship had given proper signals but was apparently ignored by the U.S. naval ship.

The impact killed seven U.S. sailors and the incident is believed to have caused the biggest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since 2000, when the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen.

Japan's Transport Safety Board, the Japanese Coast Guard and the Philippines are carrying out separate investigations. Manila earlier said initial data showed that the collision occurred before dawn 56 miles southwest of Yokosuka in Japan.

The ACX Crystal, owned by Dainichi Investment Corporation of Japan, was manned by 20 Filipino crew members, and the Philippine ship only sustained slight damage from the accident, the foreign ministry said.

Philippine Embassy officials in Japan were assisting in the investigation, it said.


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