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Incoming Hawaii Navy commander to investigate fatal collision off Japan

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    Journalists observed the damaged USS Fitzgerald at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, one day after its collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship ACX Crystal in the waters off Japan.

A change of command for Navy Region Hawaii scheduled for today has been postponed with the selection of the incoming commander, Rear Adm. Brian Fort, to lead the investigation into the June 17 collision of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal.

Seven Fitzgerald sailors were killed in the collision with the 30,000-ton container ship 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. The sailors were located in flooded berthing compartments after divers gained access on June 18.

The Navy identified Fort as the lead for the investigation being conducted pursuant to the Manual of the Judge Advocate General to gather evidence.

Fort most recently was assistant chief of staff for Naval Surface Force, Atlantic Fleet, in Norfolk, Va.

Rear Adm. John Fuller was to relinquish command of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific at 1 p.m. Friday to Fort. Fuller took command in Hawaii in June 2015.

Fuller departs Hawaii at the end of the week for his next assignment as commander of Carrier Strike Group One, the Navy said.

Navy Region Hawaii Chief of Staff Capt. James Jenks, and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific Chief of Staff Capt. Eric Weilenman will temporarily take charge of their respective commands until Fort arrives in Hawaii.

The Fitzgerald sustained damage on the forward starboard side, including flooding in two berthing spaces, a machinery space and a radio room, and returned to port 16 hours after the collision, the Navy said.

Fort is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, the Navy said. Following commissioning through Officer Candidate School, he completed nuclear power training. He received a Masters Degree from the Naval War College in National Security and Strategic Studies and is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College.

His past assignments included command of Norfolk-based USS Gonzalez, deploying as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two. He then commanded Destroyer Squadron 26, serving as the Sea Combat Commander for the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.

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