When Navy Rear Adm. Brian Fort stepped aboard the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald in the aftermath of the 2017 collision with a commercial cargo ship, everything was off.
Any warship would seem a little off after a catastrophe that claimed the lives of seven sailors, but this was different.
“It didn’t look right, smell right, sound right,” Fort said during a hearing last year for a Fitzgerald officer facing court-martial in the wake of the June 17, 2017, disaster.
After gazing at the gash in the hull through which gushed the seawater that drowned the Fitz’s dead, Fort and his team of investigators walked to the destroyer’s electronic nerve center, the combat information center everyone calls the “CIC.”
It hadn’t taken a direct hit from the bow of the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, but it was trashed nonetheless and smelled like urine.
He found a pee bottle that had tipped and spilled behind a large-screen display. Fort’s eyes started to take over for his nose, and he took it all in.
“There was debris everywhere,” Fort said under oath. “Food debris, food waste, uneaten food, half-eaten food, personal gear in the form of books, workout gear, workout bands, kettlebells, weightlifting equipment, the status boards had graffiti on them.”
“I’d never seen a CIC like that in my entire time in the Navy,” the surface warfare officer of more than 25 years recollected. (end of excerpt)
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