Ex-commanders face negligent homicide charges over deadly Navy collisions

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The commanders of two U.S. Navy ships involved in fatal collisions a year ago will face negligent homicide charges, according to report late Tuesday.

The Navy's top surface warfare officer is expected to resign this week ahead of his previously planned retirement following a series of deadly collisions this past summer, Defense News reported Tuesday.

Rowden is just the latest Pacific Fleet senior officer to leave his post earlier than scheduled following the two deadly collisions killed 17 Navy sailors.

Prior to the fatal collisions involving the McCain and Fitzgerald, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel off the country's eastern coast last May, a month before the incident involving the Fitzgerald.

"The members' ranks include one commander (the commanding officer), two lieutenants, and one lieutenant junior grade". The Navy said all four face criminal charges, including negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and endangering a ship.

The commander of the USS John S. McCain will face possible charges of dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide.

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Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez is facing similar charges after the USS John S. McCain collided with a chemical tanker.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson are scheduled to testify before a joint House Armed Services Committee subcommittee hearing Thursday on the investigations into the collisions. "Also, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a chief petty officer", the service added.

Several lower-ranking officers are also charged, according to Navy spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks. All individuals alleged to have committed misconduct are entitled to a presumption of innocence.

As a result of the two deadly accidents, at least eight top Navy officers, including the 7th Fleet commander, were fired from their jobs past year, and a number of other sailors received reprimands or other punishment that was not publicly released.

The service announced in November that it had found through internal investigations that both catastrophes were preventable and occurred due to multiple failures by service members who were standing watch the nights of the accidents.