But tragically, 19-year-old Brayden Harden was unable to save four of his closest comrades — who died alongside three others on the USS Fitzgerald Saturday morning — and now he’s struggling with survivor’s guilt, his mom told The Associated Press.
Like most of the crew, Harden was asleep when the massive Philippine-flagged container ship plowed into their vessel — but the impact knocked him out of his bunk and the berth rapidly flooded with water, Sykes said.
He rushed headfirst into the water attempting to save other sailors, but the cabin eventually ran out of air pockets, she said. Other members of the “Fighting Fitz” thought their boat was under attack, and rushed to man the guns, she told the AP.
The crew worked quickly to stem the water threatening to sink their boat, a naval official said — even as their captain was trapped inside his cabin by the impact, suffering a head injury.
“The water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea. And as you can see now, the ship is still listing, so they had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface.
It was traumatic,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, said.
Sykes hopes Harden will be allowed to return home to recover from the traumatic experience.