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Asheville mother full of emotion after daughter survived crash aboard USS Fitzgerald

Susan Smith talks with News 13 about her daughter Nancy Smith, who was aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it was hit by a container ship off the coast of Japan. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Nancy Smith, of Asheville, North Carolina, was among the 300 people aboard the USS Fitzgerald during a collision that left seven dead in Japan.

"It was at least four hours before I heard from Nancy that she was alive," mother Susan Smith said. "She called me just in a complete state of disbelief and shock. Not injured, but just emotionally distraught."

The 23-year-old Navy ensign was in bed when a container ship collided with the Fitzgerald on Saturday.

"She was thrown against the wall on impact," Susan was told. "And, of course, alarms went on and their directives about what to do."

As a mother, she feels the emotions on both sides of the coin.

"We have to reach out to these families and think about the seven sailors lost," she told News 13. "That primarily is still our focus."

"This is actually where she signed papers to go onto the USS Fitzgerald," Susan said, showing us photos.

Nancy graduated from Enka High School in 2012. She spent three years in the ROTC Program at UNC Chapel Hill, which Susan said prepared the family for the risk involved.

She was commissioned last year.

"My father, he was an enlisted man in the Army, and he gave her her first salute," she recalled.


Nothing fully prepared Susan to help her daughter through the sadness after what happened.

"As a mother, you think you can always garner advice," she said. "How do you reach out to a child who's so far away and tell her to start putting one foot in front of the other? But she is full of wisdom for someone who's 23."

The sailors' bodies were found in a flooded section of the destroyer. The victims include Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia; Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego, California; Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut; Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Carlosvictor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland; and Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.

"Like Nancy said, 'Who would have thought something like this could happen?'" Susan said. "It was such a tragedy to us. Our hearts go out to them so much. This is what our daughter is dealing with among other things is that she knew these seven men. She knew them very well."

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