Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, one of the seven missing sailors from the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, was a San Diego native fondly remembered for being a proud sailor and for having a smile that lit up the room.
The U.S.S. Fitzgerald, a 10,000-ton anti-ballistic missile destroyer, collided with the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship flagged in the Phillipines on Saturday, June 17 in Japan’s Izu Peninsula. The area sees 400 to 500 ships passing through daily. The destroyer received huge damage to its starboard side while the container ship sustained light damage.
The seven sailors were tragically found dead in the warship’s flooded berthing compartment the morning of Sunday, June 18.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Many Are Mourning the Loss of Douglass
According to his Facebook page, Douglass grew up in Okinawa, Japan and attended Kubasaki High School. He moved to Oceanside, California, the third-largest city in San Diego County, and attended Fallbrook High and was in the class of 2010.
Friends and family are mourning the loss of Douglass. Douglass is described by Sharyn Elizabeth Mulligan, whose daughter was a close childhood friend, as a “sweet, kind boy with a big, bright smile that lit up the room.”
One of Douglass’ shipmates told Erik Slavin, a reporter for Stars and Stripes, that Douglass was “one of my greatest friends.” “I’m glad to have spent almost 3 years of my time with you,” the shipmate told Slavin.
Another friend, Brian Trudeau, that he was “a brave sailor and a wonderful person. You will be missed, cousin. We love you. May you and your brothers RIP.”
Others expressed their disbelief at Douglass’ passing. Michael John Simons writes that he “can’t believe this is really happening. I’m lost for words. I miss you buddy.”
“This loss is something we all feel,” said Aucoin. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those shipmates.”
Douglass’ favorite quote according to his Facebook Page is “When your going through hell just keep on going” by Winston Churchill.
2. He was Proud of His Work Aboard the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and Proud to Serve His Country
Douglass was featured in an article on Military Press on February 12, 2015. In the article, Douglass said that he is proud to serve his country and that it’s an exciting time to be in the military and serving the world’s greatest. He added that he is proud of the work he’s doing as part of the 300-member crew of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald.
“I enjoy being in Japan, working with the Japanese Navy and getting underway frequently,” said Douglass. “The Navy is allowing me to travel, get a better understanding of how they operate while out at sea.”
The ship’s then-commanding officer, Commander Chris England, had this to say about the sailors of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald:
Fitzgerald sailors represent every state in the union as well as a diversity of ethnicities. It is an honor to lead and serve with the finest sailors the nation has to offer. These sailors should be justifiably proud of their accomplishments – a direct reflection of their dedication to mission accomplishment, motivation, and commitment to the Navy.
Douglass maintained the outside of the ship by sanding and painting, line handling, and raising and lowering the rafts.
3. Douglass Is One of the Seven Sailors Lost
Douglass is just one of the seven sailors found dead. Below is the full list of those who died from U.S. 7th Fleet:
Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
– Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California
– Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
– Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
– Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
– Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland
– Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
Another sailor who died on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald is Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia. He was a volunteer firefighter along with his mother back home. He is remembered as positive and uplifting by friends and family.
In addition to the seven sailors that died, Commander Bryce Benson, the ship’s current commanding officer, was injured in the collision and transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and is in stable condition. Two other sailors were evacuated to the hospital for lacerations and bruises.
4. Douglass Was a Fan of Video Games and Anime
Several of the photos on Douglass’ Facebook page are screenshots from games like Pokemon Go, Monster Hunter, Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links, World of Warcraft, and more. Some photos show the food at a themed restaurant including a pancake topped with ice cream in the shape of a Moogle from Final Fantasy.
Several photos are pictures of costumed people and figurines at anime conventions like Wonder Festival 2016 Winter and Anime Expo.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, mourns the death of the seven sailors but suggested that the loss of life could have been greater.
He told CNN that there was a big gash underneath the waterline on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, with “tremendous” flow of water into compartments that were berthing areas for 116 of the ship’s crew. “There wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea,” he added.
He said that the ship could have sank but was saved by the “heroic efforts” of the crew. “The crew had to fight very hard to keep the ship afloat,” he said.
The Japanese Coast Guard and US Navy joined the crew to stabilize the ship.
Rear-admiral Charles Williams, commander of the naval taskforce in the area, said “I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald sailors who contained the flooding, stabilised the ship, and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances.”
A 7th Fleet statement said that the collision also caused flooding in a machinery space and the radio room.
5. The ACX Crystal May Have Made a Sharp Turn
The Guardian writes that while the cause of the collision is still under investigation, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said the ACX Crystal may have made a sharp turn shortly before the collision. However, the company says the collision occurred early than the Navy claims, which would mean the ship turned after the collision, not before it, and may have been operating on autopilot.
The crew of the ACX Crystal were questions by investigators after the ship berthed at TOkyo’s Oi wharf. The Guardian added that “Japan’s coastguard and the US navy plan to question crew members from the ACX Crystal, and could treat the collision as a possible case of endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence.”
The Navy has not confirmed this information nor explained why the USS Fitzgerald did not see the ACX Crystal coming and vice versa.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote about Shingo Douglass. The quote was from one of Douglass’ shipmates, as reported by Erik Slavin of Stars and Stripes. The quote was not from Slavin himself.