Navy report: “She reached out for help on the day she died but was rebuffed in her efforts”

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Norfolk, Va. (WTKR) - A Navy investigation into the suicide of a Sailor on a Norfolk-based destroyer says her death can be attributed in part to a toxic command climate on-board.

The more than 300 page report outlines leadership failures on the USS James E Williams that led to many Sailors being uncomfortable with reporting problems for fear of the "climate of retribution."

The investigation came as a result of the suicide of Seaman Yeshabel Villot-Carrasco on June 19th, 2014 while deployed on the Williams.

Former commanding officer Cmdr. Curtis Calloway, former James E. Williams Executive Officer and prospective commanding officer Cmdr. Ed Handley, and Command Master Chief Travis Biswell were found in violation of various articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in October.

Rear Adm. Andrew Lewis is the commander of Carrier Strike Group 12.

In his endorsement of the report, Lewis wrote that Calloway "enabled a culture that empowered CPOs to target, belittle and bully junior sailors.”

He went on to say that Calloway “owned the culture that, I believe, contributed to the suicide."

Villot-Carrasco's suicide was the result of an overdose of the sleep-aid Unisom, according to the report.

“She reached out for help on the day she died but was rebuffed in her efforts," the report says and lists that "She believed she was being singled out because of her gender and her small size.”

“Disturbingly, two factors on board JWS likely contributed to her decision to take her own life. First [redacted] initiated disciplinary action against her after he learned that she wanted to file an equal opportunity (EO) complaint. Second, support networks that are required to be in place to assist Sailors in distress were not functioning as required by Navy policy.”

The report also makes mentions that she was dealing with perceptions on the James E Williams that was was involved romantically with another sailor, even though her husband was on another ship.

“Her belief that she was being treated unfairly by her leaders in [redacted] division was not her only source of stress, but it was significant," the report stated.

Soon after Villot-Carrasco's death, another female Sailor on the Williams also attempted suicide.

“Approximately one week later, [redacted] attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the ship. She was physically restrained by others."

According to the report, her peers "thought she wasn’t getting the support she needed and couldn’t go to her chain of command.”

At the end of his endorsement of the report, Rear Admiral Lewis wrote, "This ship is a national asset, and I am incredibly disappointed in the leadership triad for allowing a climate of fear and intimidation to take hold and for failing to hold individuals accountable."

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3 comments

  • Linda Coffelt

    The more things change, the more they remain the same. In some ways, it’s worse than when “the first” women boarded ships in the late 70’s. So sad. So very disgusting.

  • Linda Coffelt

    The Admiral is “incredibly disappointed”. Incredibly disappointed? My God, this is a complete breakdown in leadership! And this deterioration has been going on for years.

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