Bodies of missing sailors found in flooded compartments of US destroyer

Joanna Estrada
June 19, 2017

"A number" of bodies have been found in the USS Fitzgerald in flooded berthing compartment damaged when the destroyer collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan, according to the U.S. Navy.

The USS Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, commissioned in 1995, and is based in Yokosuka, according to the US Navy.

"The search and rescue is over", U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin told reporters, describing huge amounts of water that gushed into the sleeping compartments after part of the ship's right side was caved in. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the pre-dawn crash.

The USS Fitzgerald suffered significant damage when it collided with the ship, flagging from the Philippines on June 16.

A myriad of information is now being analyzed by all sides on the cause of the collision, sources close to the matter have said, such as the exact locations of the two vessels, the speed they were traveling at, their routes, their radar and other surveillance capabilities, as well as the weather conditions at the time.

The navy said families are being notified and provided with support during "this hard time".

"Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families".

"The crew had to fight very hard to keep the ship afloat", he said.

The initial Navy investigation will gather facts about what happened, with the 7th Fleet commander eventually deciding what disciplinary action is warranted, the official said.

The sailors' bodies were being transferred to a United States naval hospital, where they will be identified.

Several U.S. naval vessels and aircraft, along with Japanese coast guard ships, assisted in the search. "I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew".

The ACX Crystal, which was carrying a crew of 20, including the captain, was "slightly damaged" in the crash, the department said.

In addition to the missing, at least three other sailors-including the ship's captain, Cmdr.

The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises and others injured were being assessed aboard the ship.

"You can't see most of the damage, the damage is mostly underneath the waterline, and it's a large gash near the keel of the ship", he said. "We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance".

NYK and the ship's owner are cooperating with a Japan coast guard investigation into the collision, the shipping firm said.

Search teams were only able to inspect the damaged mid-right side of the ship after water had been pumped out.

He is in stable condition, the Navy said.

All crew members on board the ACX Crystal were unharmed.

The USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant ship the ACX Crystal at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time (1:30 p.m. Friday ET) about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, officials said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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