A defence expert from IHS Jane has reportedly said that the Japanese cargo vessel ACX Crystal which hit the USS Fitzgerald and killed seven US sailors could have been on autopilot.
An investigation into the deaths is currently under way after Saturday's (June 17, 2017) collision just outside Tokyo Bay, but the US Navy has not yet fully explained how the US$1.5 billion warship was struck by the ACX Crystal.
A Jane's Intelligence Review expert said that he suspected from the data available that the ACX Crystal was running on autopilot and that nobody was on the bridge at the time of the accident.
“If anyone was on the bridge, they had no idea how to turn off the autopilot,” Steffan Watkins, an IT security consultant and ship tracking analyst for Janes Intelligence Review told DailyMail.com.
There have also been different accounts from both sides on the timing of the crash as the cargo ship's Japanese owners report it happening at 1.30am while the US Navy claim the collision occurred at 2.20am.
Experts have also speculated that the abrupt U-turn of the cargo ship was to examine what it hit.
Nanami Meguro, a spokeswoman for owners NYK Line told CBS News that one reason why the Crystal did not report the accident when it first happened was because it was all hands on deck.
The sailors who died have been identified as Dakota Kyle Rigsby, Shingo Alexander Douglass, Ngoc T Truong Huynh, Noe Hernandez, Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, Xavier Alec Martin, and Gary Leo Rehm Jr.