Commander Fired After Ship Collision

USS Essex collided with USNS Yukon May 16 just a day out from San Diego

By R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012  |  Updated 10:56 AM PDT
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Damage to USS Essex

NBCSanDiego/Navy Times

Capt. Chuck Litchfield (inset) was relieved of his command June 18.

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A Navy commander was relieved from duty following his ship’s collision with another vessel off the coast of Southern California.

USS Essex collided with USNS Yukon May 16 during a replenishment operation about 120 miles off the coast.

The ships were just a day away from returning to San Diego when the collision occurred.

Essex CO Capt. Chuck Litchfield was relieved of his command Monday due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to command the Navy Times reports.

Even though the investigation is not complete, according Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, a Naval Surface Forces spokesperson in Coronado, Calif., however the collision began with partial loss of rudder control and was compounded with a breakdown in command and communication between the two ships.

No one was injured and no oil was spilled. The flight deck on the Yukon was damaged and the Essex suffered damage to an elevator, lifeboats and several catwalks.

Capt. Jonathan Harnden has been assigned to temporarily command Essex as it departs from San Diego for Hawaii Wednesday.

USNS Yukon is one of the Military Sealift Command's fifteen Fleet Replenishment Oilers. It is about 677.5 feet long.

USS Essex is an amphibious assault ship, about 840 feet long.

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