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Injured Fitzgerald Commander Is Relieved

The USS Fitzgerald sits at Yokosuka Bay, on June 18, 2017, after a collision with a merchant ship on June 17. (TYLER HLAVAC/STARS AND STRIPES)
The USS Fitzgerald sits at Yokosuka Bay, on June 18, 2017, after a collision with a merchant ship on June 17. (TYLER HLAVAC/STARS AND STRIPES)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- Navy officials announced Tuesday that the USS Fitzgerald commanding officer is being temporary relieved of his command for medical reasons.

The Navy statement said that Cmdr. Bryce Benson is relieved while recovering from injuries sustained in the collision between the destroyer and the ACX Crystal cargo ship June 17.

"This is a temporary relief due to medical reasons," 7th Fleet Spokesman Clay Doss said in an email to Stars and Stripes. "We're focused on supporting Cmdr. Benson … getting him the resources he needs during the recovery process."

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Benson was one of three sailors who were medically evacuated by helicopter from the ship to Yokosuka Naval Hospital after the destroyer collided with the ACX Crystal. Benson was released from the hospital June 19 along with the other two sailors, according to a 7th Fleet Facebook post.

Navy officials declined to discuss Benson's current medical status, citing privacy laws.

The Fitzgerald was damaged above and below the water line on the starboard side near the bridge after being struck by the cargo ship, which is nearly four times its size. During a June 17 press conference, 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin said Benson's living area was among many spots on the ship that received significant damage.

"His cabin was destroyed," Aucoin said. "He's lucky to be alive."

Benson assumed duties as the ship's executive officer in November 2015 before assuming command of the ship May 2017, according to a previous Navy news release.

Cmdr. Jack Fray, who is currently assigned to Task Force 70, has assumed command of the ship. Fray had previously served as commanding officer of the USS Howard, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer similar to the Fitzgerald, according to the statement.

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