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Connecticut sailor among those killed in USS Fitzgerald collision

WASHINGTON -- The US Navy on Sunday released the names of the seven sailors who died when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel on Saturday. One of them, Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T. Truong Huynh, 25, was from Oakville.

The oldest of four siblings, his mother and the children moved to Connecticut in 2005. He joined the Navy in 2014 after taking a few classes at Naugatuck Valley Community College.

His younger sister Lan issued a statement late Sunday that said,  "We want people to know that anyone who came across Tan noticed he was very quiet person, but he is also the sweetest and nicest. When he talked about things that he loved, he showed so much passion, just like his love for the Navy and niece. He had a bright smile."

Mary, another sister, also released a statement,

"It was really hard on us when he left for basic because us four siblings are all we have. We don't have a huge family in America, it was just us and our mother for so long. He was the first person I would vent to even though he was away, because I knew he would always reply and be honest with me. It took a toll on my little brother but it made us even more happy and warmed our hearts that he loved being in the Navy. He had a purpose and he took it very seriously. I always asked if he would ever come home and he always said, probably not for awhile because he loved (not many can say they never want to come home) being in the Navy. He was so smart and was effortlessly amazing at everything he did. Our family will never be whole again without him but we are just happy he didn't die alone, he died with his brothers."

The sailors who died are:

  • Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
  • Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego -
  • Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
  • Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
  • Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlosvictor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
  • Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland
  • Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio

Ngoc T. Truong Huynh Sonar Technician 3rd Class

Governor Dannel P. Malloy ordered flags in the state to fly at half-staff. Flags will remain at half-staff until burial or memorial services are held, the details of which are forthcoming.

"The members of the military and their families make so many sacrifices to serve our nation, and today is a sad and tragic reminder of what these men and women risk in defense of our nation every day. Our state and our nation are in mourning for all of those who lost loved ones onboard the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, including Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T. Truong Huynh from Connecticut.  We pray for a safe homecoming for all of our troops who are stationed around the world, and thank them for their bravery and service," Governor Malloy said.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued a statement. “I am heartbroken by reports that a Connecticut sailor was killed among others who perished on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald. My thoughts and prayers are with the family. The Navy owes the family and the nation a prompt investigation,” Blumenthal said.

“I am terribly saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Sonar Technician Huynh. This young sailor's death is a reminder of the risks our brave military men and women face each and every day. We mourn with his family and thank them for his service and sacrifice,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy  said, “My heart goes out to the Huynh family for their loss. Ngoc died serving our country, a debt we cannot repay. We are all grateful for his service and sacrifice,” said Murphy. “The crash of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald is an absolute tragedy, and I intend to get to the bottom of what happened so that the families of those we lost have the answers they deserve.”

The Navy's 7th Fleet said searchers found the bodies Sunday morning, Japan time, after the guided-missile destroyer returned to its base in Japan.

"This loss is something we all feel," Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, told reporters alongside the ship at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan Sunday.

"We have found a number of the remains ... of our missing shipmates, and our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those shipmates," he said.

The Navy would not specify the number of dead, Aucoin said, until all families of the deceased had been notified, but he confirmed all search and rescue efforts had ended.

The admiral's comments Sunday indicated the loss of life could have been much worse.

"There was a big puncture, a big gash underneath the waterline" along the bottom of the ship, Aucoin said.

The water flow into compartments that were berthing areas for 116 of the ship's crew was "tremendous", he said, adding that "there wasn't a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea."

Aucoin said the cabin of the Fitzgerald's captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was completely destroyed. "He's lucky to be alive," he added.

Benson was flown off the crippled ship by helicopter after the accident and was being treated at the naval hospital at Yokosuka, according to Aucoin, as were two other sailors who were medevaced.

Crew saved ship from sinking

The admiral said the ship had been in danger of sinking but was saved by the "heroic efforts" of the crew.

"The crew had to fight very hard to keep the ship afloat," he said.

The 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship flagged in the Philippines, collided early Saturday local time off Japan's Izu Peninsula, officials said. The area sees heavy maritime traffic, with 400 to 500 vessels crossing it daily.

The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.

While photos showed serious damage above the waterline, the container ship also did severe damage below it.

A 7th Fleet statement said the collision did "significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room."

Container ships like the Crystal have bulbous bows under the waterline and that portion of the cargo vessel plowed into the US warship.

The Fitzgerald had left the base Friday for routine operations.

Multiple investigations expected

Aucoin would not speculate on how the accident occurred, but said there would be multiple investigations into the collision, including one by the Navy's Judge Advocate General and one by the US Coast Guard.

Other investigations could come from the Japanese and Philippine authorities because of where the accident took place and the Philippine registry of the container ship.

The Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer commissioned in 1995. The vessel is 505 feet long. It normally carries a crew of about 330 sailors and is homeported in Yokosuka.

Despite the significant damage to the destroyer, Aucoin said he expected it would rejoin the fleet.

"The ship is salvageable," he said. "It will take months, hopefully under a year" for repairs.

"You will see the USS Fitzgerald back as one of our warships," Aucoin said.

No one hurt on merchant ship

The ACX Crystal container ship is chartered by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) and owned by Dainichi-Invest Corporation, NYK said.

No one aboard the Crystal was hurt, and no oil spilled from the vessel, NYK said. It was back in port Sunday.

NYK and the ship's owner are cooperating with a Japan coast guard investigation into the collision, the shipping firm said.

"Our thoughts and deep concerns go out to all those directly affected," NYK said.

Photos of the Crystal showed damage to its bow.

The ship, which handles general cargo, is manned by a captain and a crew of 20, NYK said. It was built in 2008 and is about 730 feet long.