The theory of the accident happening at 0130 am does make a lot of sense, but there are some problems with it.
It is said that the Crystal was running on autopilot, and that this was the reason for time it took to make the U-turn, and also for the time it took to alert the Japenese coast guard.
If this was true, it would mean that no one was on the bridge of the Crystal when it hit the Fitzgerald.
Now, is apparent the Crystal ran into the Fitz from a relatively straight angle, though not fullly 90 degrees. No doubt the bulb struck the Fitz below the waterline to flood the berths, of which nothing can be seen on the photos. We only see damage above the freeboard. This is also supported by the rip in the stem.
It is said that it took about half an hour for the crew of the Crystal to get onto the bride and make a U-turn, in order to find out what they hit. So, the crew never saw the Fitz, not before, under or after the collision (before the U-turn)
Now, I don’t have detailed knowledge about ships autopilots, but I am pretty sure they won’t stop, apply reverse, move off and start going forward again, once they hit something.
However, if the story is going to stick, this is what have must happened.
Because, simply, if the Crystal did not back away from the Fitz right after the collision. Both ships would have had much much more damage in the form of “scratches” and the like along the sides of the ships, for ships this size just don’t bounce off of each other after a hit like this. Considering this, and the lack of this type of “post initial crash” damage. I am wondering if it could have been that the Fitz was actually not making way through the water, but actually lying still when she was hit. The Crystal backs off, goes around. Panic on the bridge, no doubt. It takes half an hour for the crew to get the minds set straight and decide to return to the scene, and realise they need to call the accident in to the coast guard.
Big question is, why are the US still claiming it happened 0220 am. Lack of communication, would be my guess. But why didn’t the Fitz report the accident right away, and why is no one questioning why they didn’t.