Sailor from The Colony narrowly survives collision of the USS Fitzgerald

Mom of Fitzgerald sailor talks about his story of survival

THE COLONY -- A 25-year-old sailor from The Colony is among the survivors of the collision of the USS Fitzgerald. 

It’s torture for any mother to think of their son in danger or pain, which is why tears have come easily for Liz Luna since Friday.

"My daughter showed me something on Facebook, and she said 'Did you see this?' and I said 'No, what’s going on?'" said Luna.

It was a picture of the damaged USS Fitzgerald, the floating home of her son, Petty Officer Second Class Joshua Tapia.

"The caption said something about it colliding, but I still thought 'Oh, I’m sure it’s no big deal," she said.

She felt confident, as her son was on one of the US Navy's high tech missile destroyers. But time ticked by, and she learned it was hit by a 29,000 ton cargo ship in the waters off Japan. From her home in The Colony, she sent Joshua a text, praying to hear Joshua was alive.

"He responded almost three hours after I messaged him and he just said 'I’m ok,'" said Luna. "Then he just said he had almost died."

Joshua says he was jolted awake by the impact, and his living space flooded in seconds. For the sailors, a drill became real life.

"You’re trained to swim to that area and get out quickly, and then you have to shut whatever door so the water doesn’t get into other compartments and that’s what they did," said Luna.

The Navy is praising that work for saving the ship. But Joshua now wrestles with what it cost them, seven of their own.  

"I don’t know what to say to him," she said. "I just tell him 'I don’t know what you’re feeling, I just know that we’re all really proud of you, and your bravery,' because he lost some really good friends."

Joshua and the rest of the survivors are back in Japan, as the rest of the world wonders how this all happened. But for Luna, there is only one question that needs answering. It’s when she’ll get the chance to put her arms around her son.  

"I just want to see him," she said. "That’s all I want." 

Several investigations are now underway to try to learn how the collision happened and who was at fault, a process that will likely take many months. 

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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