While investigators pore over the details of Saturday’s tragic crash, seven families must now deal with an even bigger question: How to move on from the deaths of their loved ones.
In total seven Navy sailors died either in or after the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal. They were aged just 19 to 37. And as the shock set in, the sailors’ families and friends came forward to speak about their loss.
Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19
Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby was the youngest victim, at 19. A former volunteer firefighter, he was remembered as a good and loyal friend, and one of his school’s most ‘positive and uplifting’ figures
Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, of Palmyra, Virginia, was remembered by friend Ryan Boon as ‘One of the most positive, uplifting guys I knew in school no matter what.’
‘Truly a sad day. I have nothing but great things to say about Dakota Rigsby,’ Boon wrote on Facebook. ‘You will be missed by all of us and your [Fluvanna County High School] family. Thinking and praying for your family through all of this.’
Rigsby had worked as a volunteer firefighter in Fluvanna County, and his fire station flew its flag at half-staff on Saturday as news of his death hit the community.
‘It’s a tragic loss and he was definitely taken entirely too soon and its… we just know that he is watching over us right now,’ Assistant Chief Lake Monticello Fire Department Jean Campbell told NBC 29.
‘For me he was a regular kid, when he was younger and just having fun playing and he grew into what we would consider a good man.
‘Even before he left for the navy he would spend a lot of time with some of the younger kids up here playing basketball and just horsing around with them and having a good time.’
Another friend of Rigsby’s, Angel Bautista, wrote: ‘I’d be your designated wingman any day brother. Smooth sailing from here on out… It’s true what they say “the good ones always go too soon” and friend you truly were a good soul.’
Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan (pictured) was remembered as a cheerful joker by his friends
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, who died alongside Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass in the hold as it was flooded with water.
The pair were both from San Diego, California – Sibayan from Chula Vista and Douglass from Oceanside, around 42 miles north of there.
His friends recalled him as a real character – someone who could always be relied on to light up a room.
‘There was never a time that Carlos wasn’t making people laugh,’ Chase Cornils, a fellow cadet of Chaparral High School’s Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, told the San Diego Tribune.
‘He always had a cheerful attitude and a smile on his face.
‘When I think of Carlos, I can only remember an extremely happy guy who was willing to help all of his friends,’ he said.
Sibayan was the second-youngest of the fallen crewmembers.
Xavier Alex Martin, 24
Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin (left) tried to call his dad Daryl (right) as the room he was in flooded, but was unable to. Daryl said he thanked God he didn’t have to hear Xavier, his son and best friend, drown, adding: ‘He’s my only child. He’s all I have’
Daryl Martin, father of Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin from Halethorpe, Maryland, still appeared in shock on Monday night.
‘It’s very hard,’ Martin, who raised Xavier as a single father, told CBS Baltimore. ‘He’s my only child. He’s all I have.’
He said Xavier wasn’t just his son, but his best friend, and they they even had matching tattoos. Now the only thing he can think of are his son’s last moments alive, as water flooded into the ship.
‘He was trying to [contact me], but the all comps were down, he was trying to call me then,’ he said on Sunday. ‘I thank God that, who wants to hear their child?’
He added: ‘It just occurred to me call everybody – to every dad – that I knew, and say “Happy Father’s Day.”‘
Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25
The family of Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass (left and right) said he was ‘adventurous’. They said in a statement that he was ‘thrilled’ to go back to Japan in 2014 to serve his country on the Fitzgerald
On Monday the family of Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass paid tribute to their ‘adventurous’ 25-year-old sailor, who had followed his dad, US Marine Corps Master Sergeant Stephen Douglass, into the Navy.
‘We loved him very much and his parents and younger brother will miss him more than words can express,’ the Douglasses, of Oceanside in San Diego, California, said in a statement to NBC San Diego.
‘Shingo was an adventurous young man. He loved to travel, was a certified scuba diver and a Black Belt in karate and played tennis,’ they added. ‘He was also an avid gamer, studied computer game design and loved to attend Comic Con.’
They said he was ‘thrilled’ to go back to Japan in 2014 to serve his country on the Fitzgerald, and said they commended the crew’s efforts to save their friends’ lives. ‘We know now why Shingo was proud to serve with you,’ they added.
Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25
The family of Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh found out he had died after a delay caused by them moving from Connecticut to Oklahoma after he enlisted, WVIT reported.
‘He was a really quiet person,’ his sister told the station. ‘He was also very nice, very selfless. He helped us, the family with a lot. He had the brightest smile.’
A friend, Kim Thanh Vo, wrote a tribute to the sailor, nicknamed ‘Tan’, on Facebook on Saturday. ‘I can’t believe that you have been taken away from us,’ she wrote.
‘We have known each other for more than 8 years and I cherish all those memories we had together. You were such a genuine and kind hearted person and it pains me that you are no longer here.’
Noe Hernandez, 26
The cousin of Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez told CBS DFW that Noe had died from an injury to the head.
‘When they confirmed it, it was like a kick to the chest,’ said Aly Hernandez-Singer, who said that Noe had one child – his son Leon – with wife Dora, whom he met in high school. ‘That was his first love… his only love,’ she remarked.
Noe’s whole family felt like they had traveled the world through the young man’s stories, she said.
‘We lived through his experiences. His travels. We were just proud that our boy was up there,’ she said. ‘We all came from poverty in Guatemala. He was the one who made it. And we were so proud of him.’
Gary Leo Rehm Jr, 37
Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr, of Elyria, Ohio, ‘died a hero,’ his uncle Stanley Rehm told Fox 8 Cleveland, and had managed to save more than a dozen crewmates before he was lost to the waters.
‘His dad told me that he saved 20,’ Stanley said. ‘He went back down to where the other ones were at to save them.’
However, he said, Rehm died when his colleagues were forced to close a hatch he had jumped into, in order to stop the ship from going down.
If true, that would confirm fears expressed on Tuesday that some of those lost were deliberately trapped underwater.
‘The ship was flooding so fast they had to close the hatch to save the ship,’ Stanley said. ‘They had to sacrifice the few to save the many. Guess he died a hero.’
Rehm was survived by his wife Erin, who posted on Facebook: ‘We were obsessed with each other. I’m just so lost right now.’