Navy Cruiser Involved in May Collision Receives New Commander

Capt. Jen Ellinger took charge of the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the ship, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (SEAN CASTELLANO/U.S. NAVY)
Capt. Jen Ellinger took charge of the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain during a change-of-command ceremony aboard the ship, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (SEAN CASTELLANO/U.S. NAVY)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- A new commander has taken charge of a Navy cruiser that collided with a fishing vessel east of the Korean Peninsula earlier this year.

Capt. Jen Ellinger assumed command of the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain from Capt. Chris Cegielski Thursday in San Diego, a Navy statement said.

Cegielski was in charge of the Ticonderoga-class cruiser when it collided with a South Korean fishing vessel on May 9.

The Navy hasn't released many details about the accident, although the Lake Champlain was able to finish its five-and-a-half-month deployment before returning to San Diego in June.

The incident was part of a slew of incidents involving U.S. warships in the Pacific this year.

In January, the USS Antietam ran aground and spilled roughly 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay; in June, a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a merchant ship killed seven sailors; and last month, a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a merchant vessel killed 10 sailors.

Unlike those three ships, which belong to the Yokosuka, Japan-based 7th Fleet, the Lake Champlain is assigned to the San Diego-based 3rd Fleet.

Naval officials did not respond to requests for comment, and it remains unclear if Cegielski, who commanded the ship for a little more than a year and a half, was relieved early because of the collision. The Navy usually issues statements when ships change command; however, only a few photographs were released from Thursday's ceremony.

The captains of both the Antietam and the Fitzgerald were relieved after the collisions involving their ships.

Ellinger assumes command of the cruiser after a roughly one year tour as deputy commodore for the San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron 21.

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