US Navy sailors' bodies found on stricken ship, some still missing

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 20, 2017

The search for seven U.S. Navy sailors who went missing after their destroyer collided with a container ship off the Japanese coast was called off after several bodies were found Sunday in the ship's flooded compartments, including sleeping quarters.

Once the ship arrived in Yokosuka, divers began inspecting the damage and developing a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces.

The U.S. Navy said the collision happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT), while the Japanese Coast Guard said it took place at 1:30 a.m. local time.

Following the collision the US Navy's 7th Fleet said five sailors were injured and seven sailors were missing.

"This has been a hard day", Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Seventh Fleet, said as the badly damaged USS Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided-missile destroyer, limped back into its home port at Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, after emergency efforts at sea to control flooding and before the deaths were announced.

But the destroyer, nicknamed the Fighting Fitz within the Navy, suffered severe damage on its starboard side.

The USS Fitzgerald being escorted to its mother port, the US Naval Base Yokosuka.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet, also described a harrowing scene as other sailors fought to keep the ship from sinking.

At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship dwarfs the 8,315-ton USA warship, and was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

About 200 sailors were aboard the ship at the time of the collision.

Similar records for the USS Fitzgerald are not publicly available. Benson was flown off the crippled ship by helicopter after the accident and was being treated at the naval hospital at the United States naval base at Yosuka, Japan, said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, 7th Fleet commander, as were two other sailors who were medevaced.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a sympathy message Sunday to President Trump.

Aucoin said the Navy will launch an investigation into the collision because "we owe it to our families and the Navy to understand what happened". "Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance".

The ship, which handles general cargo, is manned by a captain and a crew of 20, NYK said.

He said "a significant portion of the crew was sleeping" when the destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship, the ACX Crystal.

Benson reported as the ship's executive officer November 2015, the Navy said. "As soon as the investigation is complete, legal concerns can be addressed at that time", the 7th Fleet said.

Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though Yutaka Saito of the coast guard said the area is particularly busy with sea traffic.

When asked how many crew were awake and on watch when the incident occurred, and whether the ship's navigational equipment was working correctly, Aucoin didn't have any answers.

Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), the company that chartered the ACX Crystal, released three statements over the weekend regarding the container ship's collision with the USS Fitzgerald.

An injured crew member (C) of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged after colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is carried on a stretcher on the destroyer off Shimoda, Japan June 17, 2017.

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