Seven US sailors missing after destroyer collides with merchant ship off Japan

Ruben Hill
June 19, 2017

The severely damaged Fitzgerald limped into Yokosuka harbor, and the Pentagon confirms that search efforts are underway for the Fitzgerald's seven missing crew members.

Takeshi Aikawa of the Japan coast guard said that so far no damage or injuries were reported on the container ship, he said.

The ship completed $21 million in upgrades and repairs in February and is now forward-deployed to Yokosuka, supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Other injured persons were assessed and treated onboard the ship. Three crew have been injured and airlifted to shore, including the captain, who was reported in stable condition. They were later joined by Japan's Self-Defence Forces.

The collision occurred near Yokosuka, a Japanese port city that is home to the United States 7th Fleet, which comprises up to 80 submarines and ships and including the USS Fitzgerald.

Several Japanese and U.S. boats and aircraft have been deployed, with the search continuing into the night.

The US Navy ship had collided with a Philippine merchant vessel, early on Saturday morning. There are seven Sailors unaccounted for; the ship and the Japanese Coast Guard continues to search for them.

"Our thoughts and deep concerns go out to all those directly affected", NYK said.

The ACX Crystal appeared to have relatively minor frontal damage.

The area where the wreck happened is known for heavy maritime traffic, the Japanese coast guard said.

"This has been a hard day", Aucoin said in a release.

Adm. John Richardson, chief of Naval Operations at Yokosuka, said Navy, Japanese maritime defense vessels and the Japanese coast guard are working to stabilize the badly damaged ship. Six Japanese crew were declared dead.

This is the second collision in two months in the region.

The U.S. 7th Fleet said earlier that some flooding was reported on the Fitzgerald, but it remained under its own power although propulsion was limited.

No one on board the merchant vessel was injured and the ship itself sustained little damage.

When its crew is at full strength, the Fitzgerald usually has more than 250 personnel aboard and can reach speeds well over 30 miles per hour. The 10,000-ton warship has a crew of around 330 sailors. The vessel is 505 feet long.

An investigation was under way to determine what caused the night-time collision between the destroyer and the container ship.

The force of the impact may have thrown overboard sailors who were standing on side of the destroyer opposite where it was struck, he said. The Philippine-flagged container ship was berthed at Tokyo's Oi wharf, where officials began questioning crew members about the cause of the nighttime crash.

An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald was named after US Navy officer William Charles Fitzgerald. Last month, Cmdr. Bryce Benson took over leadership of the vessel.

The 154-metre Fitzgerald - which was commissioned in 1995 and deployed in the Iraq war in 2003 - is based in Yokosuka, operating in the Pacific and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

"We will fully cooperate with authorities investigating the case".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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