Fisherman hit by US ship seeks damages from US authorities
OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines — One of three fishermen who almost drowned when a warship of the United States hit their boats early this month want American authorities to pay them P500,000 for their destroyed vessels and lost income.
Orly Cocjin, 41, said he has not been out to sea since the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) collided with his boat and another wooden canoe on Oct. 13. Cocjin and local fishermen Julie Mendez, 43, and Pampilo Bacsal, 33, were fishing near the Grande Island in Subic Bay at around 8 p.m. when the US warship hit their boats as it was leaving the bay.
“I can’t sleep at night. I’m very traumatized and I can’t even set out to sea to fish again since it happened,” Cocjin told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday.
Cocjin said he had no grudges against the ship’s crew because he believed it was an accident.
“I hope we understand their situation because they didn’t want it to happen,” he said.
While he had forgiven the crew of the US warship, he said he still wanted them to face the consequences of the incident. “I have forgiven them. We survived but how about the consequence of that accident?” Cocjin said.
He said the amount that they were seeking from the US Navy would pay for their destroyed boats and compensate for their lost income because they have not been fishing since the accident happened.
Cocjin, who has six children, expressed fear he could no longer support his family because he has lost his boat and has become afraid to go fishing.
He said he pitied the captain of the USS Stethem, who was relieved because of the accident.
A news release from the US Navy on Friday said Cmdr. John Bradford was relieved by Navy Capt. Shan Byrne, commander of Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 15, on Oct. 24 “due to loss of confidence in Bradford’s ability to command.”
“No one was injured. The investigation is still in progress,” said the statement.
Stethem, according to the statement, is now commanded by Capt. Chris Sweeney, deputy commodore of CDS 15, who will serve temporarily. Bradford has been reassigned to Destroyer Squadron 15.
“Stethem is currently on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” the statement said.
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