Newport Beach, CA Destroyers AMMEN and COLLETT Collide, July 1960
11 SAILORS ARE KILLED IN COLLISION OF DESTROYERS ON WEST COAST.
Newport Beach, Calif. (UPI) -- The Navy tried to find out today why two war-proud Navy destroyers equipped with radar collided off the fog-shrouded Southern California coast.
A board of inquiry was set up to look into the cause of the collision which took the lives of 11 men, all aboard the USS Ammen when it collided with the USS Collett. Seven others aboard the two ships were injured.
Most of the dead and injured were from the West and Midwest. Only one, Machinist Mate 3C ROBERT KENNETH GILBERT, Falls Church, Va., was from the East.
Both ships were able to make harbor at Long Beach.
The Ammen ironically was heading to San Diego for retirement into the mothball fleet. Both ships had distinguished records in the Pacific during World War II.
The bow of the Collett sliced midships into the leftside of the USS Ammen Tuesday at 12:44 p.m., e.d.t., about five miles from the coast and 30 miles southwest of Los Angeles.
A gaping hole was opened about 1/3 of the way back on the Ammen and the bow of the Collett was crumpled back 20 to 30 feet.
Foreboding of Disaster.
There had been a foreboding of disaster among some of the 235 sailors and officers aboard the Ammen just before the collision.
"If we collide with another ship in this fog we wouldn't have a chance," Seaman Royce L. Jones of the Ammen reported a sailor as saying.
Despite quick action by commanders of both ships, the heavy fog had cut visibility to about 1/8 of a mile and prevented the ships from sighting each other before it was too late to avoid the collision.
Cmdr. A. T. Ford, 39, of the Collett, said his first order when he saw the broadside of the Ammen loom before his craft was.
"All engines full, back full rudder."
But it was too late to avoid the crash. The Collett (which also carried 235 men) was estimated unofficially to have been traveling at 17 knots at the time of the collision.
Ford said he did not know if the radar aboard the Collett had picked up the presence of the Ammen.
"We should have, but I don't know if we did," he said.
Radar Picks Up Collett.
Cmdr. Zaven Mukhalian, 41, of the Ammen said radar on his craft was working "very well." He said the Ammen's radar picked up the presence of the Collett about a half-hour before the collision.
At that time, he said, the Collett was on the right side of the Ammen although when the collision occurred the Collett came in on the Ammen's port side.
"It takes time for the radar man to interpret plots," said Mukhalian.
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