The amphibious assault ship USS Essex collided with a Navy oiler Wednesday about 120 miles off the Southern California coast while en route to San Diego, but no one was hurt, according to the Third Fleet.
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The USS Essex, slated to return to San Diego on Thursday after spending a dozen years in Japan, collided with the USNS Yukon around 9:20 a.m., and both vessels were damaged, the Navy reported.
The USNS Yukon has roughly 80 crew members, while the USS Essex has approximately 980 crew members onboard.
This is the Yukon's third accident and the first for the Essex.
The USS Essex apparently had a steering malfunction while the ships were engaged in a refueling operation. No fuel was spilled, according to the Navy.
"It's not easy, that's why professionals do it," said Capt. Joseph DeNigro, who retired from the Navy after 28 years. "But it's very rare to have an occurrence such as this."
DeNigro said that refueling at sea is routine but takes precision, especially when ocean conditions are rough.
"The replenishment ship maintains a steady course and the other ship maneuvers in behind it and comes alongside and takes on fuel," he said.
The exact speed is unclear but usually the ships are traveling between 12 to 15 knots.
The USS Essex was based in San Diego before it was sent to Japan.
The Navy sent the USS Bonhomme Richard to replace it at the base in Sasebo, Japan, and the USS Bonhomme Richard's crew was bringing the USS Essex back to the U.S.
The USS Essex is scheduled to take part in an exercise off Hawaii this summer, then go in for an overhaul at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard. It was not immediately clear whether the collision might affect those plans.
The Navy promised a thorough investigation.
DeNigro called the crash "very rare," and told 10News, "My times at sea, I never saw a collision during an underway replenishment."
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