HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The Navy is still piecing together the chain of events that led up to the USS Fitzgerald’s collision with a cargo ship off the Japan coast, killing seven sailors.
One of the victims, Gary Rehm, Jr. lived in Hampton with his wife Erin. His parents live in Williamsburg.
Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Rehm died a hero. He reportedly went back into the flooded compartment trying to save the other sailors after reportedly saving nearly two dozen immediately after the accident.
“[He was] an amazing neighbor to have. Always looking out for other people. Always trying to help people when he could,” neighbor Kristi Jackson told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings. “He just seemed like an all-around good guy.”
Jackson has lived on Hampton’s Tallwood Drive six years. She said it was hard to believe the news that Rehm was dead.
“Just shock, just shock. I mean and heartbroken. Heartbroken for Erin,” Jackson said.
Jackson calls Rehm an amazing neighbor. She said he often worked on cars and sometimes hers, too, but his generosity didn’t stop there.
“He’s even helped me pay for some of the repairs that needed to be done on my vehicles and let me pay him back when I could. Even to the point where I didn’t have money to buy dog food for my dogs and he’d buy dog food for them,” Jackson said.
Rehm was months from retirement when he and six shipmates were killed aboard the USS Fitzgerald. The warship collided with a merchant ship Saturday in Japanese waters. Rehm was the oldest of the fallen.
Family members say he went into the flooded compartment trying to help trapped sailors get to safety.
“He went back to get the other ones and I guess from what I understand they had to close the hatch, because the ship was taking on water. He was okay. He chose to go back,” said Stanley Rehm, Gary’s uncle.
Jackson says Rehm was an instructor. They often talked about teaching because she’s an educator as well.
“He loved what he did. He definitely loved what he did,” Jackson said. “He was a very giving, helpful person. He was always looking for a way to help people who needed it. Wouldn’t turn that opportunity down,” Jackson said.
Gary’s wife Erin was overcome with emotion and spoke to Cummings only for a moment, saying she wasn’t able to talk about her husband.
The sailor’s bodies returned to the U.S. Tuesday.
Family members say Rehm will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.