Early on June, 17, 2017, the United States Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) collided with MV ACX Crystal, a Philippine-flagged container ship, about 80 nautical miles (92 miles) southwest of Tokyo, Japan; 10 nautical miles (12 miles) southeast of the city of Shimoda on the Japanese mainland (Honshu).
The accident killed seven Fitzgerald sailors. Their bodies were recovered from the flooded berthing compartments of the ship. At least three more of the crew of nearly 300 were injured, including the ship’s commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson.
Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Va.
Rigsby was a graduate of Fluvanna County High School outside of Charlottesville, Va. He was a volunteer firefighter with Lake Monticello Fire Department, according to Richmond-area television news channel WRIC. According to an Associated Press article, Rigsby began joined the fire department in 2014, following in the footsteps of his mother. Volunteer firefighter Farrah Brody said Rigsby “was a good kid. He’d give his shirt off of his back for you.”
Rigsby enlisted in the Navy on Feb. 17, 2016 and reported to Fitzgerald on Nov. 16, 2016.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego.
Douglass grew up in Okinawa, Japan, where his father, a retired U.S. Marine Corps master sergeant, served at Camp Foster, according to a Stars and Stripes article. He moved to Oceanside, Calif., and graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2010. The Stripes article describes him as an avid tennis and video game player and a class clown, with a former classmate telling Stripes Douglass was a “class-clown type and everyone loved him for it.”
Douglass enlisted in the Navy on March 5, 2014, and he reported to Fitzgerald on Oct. 14, 2014, according to Navy records. He was profiled in a Navy public affairs spotlight in February 2015 and said, “I enjoy being in Japan, working with the Japanese Navy and getting underway frequently.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas
Hernandez joined his high school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program and met his wife, Dora, in that class, his cousin Aly Hernandez-Singer told the Dallas-Fort Worth area CBS news station. “That was his first love… his only love,” she said, adding the couple has a three-year-old son, Leon. Hernandez-Singer added that “We all came from poverty in Guatemala. … He was the one who made it. And we were so proud of him.”
Hernandez enlisted in the Navy on June 18, 2009, according to Navy records. He was attached to the Navy Munitions Command in Sigonella, Italy, from April 2010 to September 2013, Littoral Combat Ship Training in San Diego from September 2013 to July 2015, and the Center for Surface Combat Systems school in San Diego until October 2015. He joined the crew of Fitzgerald on Dec. 7, 2015.
An Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, Hernandez was promoted to Gunner’s Mate Second Class on Dec. 16, 2014. He earned multiple awards and decorations, including the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Ngoc Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Conn.
Huynh was the oldest of four siblings raised by a single mother. His family moved to Connecticut in 2005, when he was in eighth grade, and he joined the Navy in on April 21, 2015, after taking some classes at Naugatuck Valley Community College, according to the local Fox 61 and and NBC Connecticut news stations.
The Hartford Courant reported that Huynh, who turned 25 on the day of the collision, joined the Navy as a way to give back to his mother for raising four children alone. “It’s not something he always wanted to do, but he wanted to do something adventurous,” Lan Thi Huynh told the paper.
Huynh was a student at the Fleet Anti-Submarine Training Center from June 2015 to June 2016 and reported to Fitzgerald on June 14, 2016.
Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio.
Rehm graduated from Oberlin City Schools in 1998 and enlisted in the Navy on July 16, 1998. He served aboard USS Ponce (LPD-15) from March 2000 to January 2004, worked in the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown Security Detachment in Virginia from March 2004 to March 2007, served aboard USS Ramage (DDG-61) from May 2007 to April 2012, and joined the crew of Fitzgerald on Sept. 2, 2015.
The Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist earned medals and decorations including the Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy “E” Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon.
Rehm was set to retire from the Navy this summer, his family told several news outlets.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, Calif.
Sibayan was a cadet in Chaparral High School’s Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) program and enlisted after high school graduation, on April 3, 2013.
“There was never a time that Carlos wasn’t making people laugh,” fellow NJROTC cadet Chase Cornils told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “He always had a cheerful attitude and a smile on his face. When I think of Carlos, I can only remember an extremely happy guy who was willing to help all of his friends.”
Cornils added that joining the Navy “felt like it was his calling” and that Sibayan “was extremely excited to join and start his career in the Navy and serve our country. He wanted to start as soon as he could.”
Sibayan enlisted in April 2013 and reported to Fitzgerald on July 31, 2014. The Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist was promoted to Fire Controlman Second Class on Jan. 16, 2016.
The Philippine Star reported that Sibayan’s family is originally from Pasay City, outside Manila. The paper quoted the sailor’s mother, Carmen, as saying, “If you never met my son, you missed a whole lot. In every sense of the word he is my hero. … The way Carlos is, when you need help, he’ll help you with his whole being.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Md.
Martin joined the Navy on May 24, 2012, to follow in his father’s footsteps, according to multiple news reports. An only child raised by a single dad, Martin graduated in 2010 from Landsdowne High School and then worked hard to rise through the ranks in the Navy, his aunt Daneace Jeffery told U.S. News and World Report.
“He loved his job, he loved being in the military,” she said, adding that he was just recently promoted to petty officer first class and was considering making a career out of the Navy.
“He was a friend’s friend. He’s a good friend to others, he always put others before his own safety. I’m sure in his last moments he was probably more concerned with the other servicemen than himself, that’s the kind of person he was.”
Martin served at the Personnel Support Detachment in Guam from May 2013 to May 2016 and then reported to Fitzgerald on Aug. 26, 2016. His awards include the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Navy/Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon.