YOKOSUKA, Japan - A U.S. Navy destroyer came close to sinking after a "traumatic" collision off the coast of Japan, the commander of the Seventh Fleet said Sunday, after the bodies of the missing sailors were found in the berthing compartments of the stricken vessel.
DAMAGED part of USS Fitzgerald is seen at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan yesterday.
The sailors were found in flooded berthing compartments after search-and-rescue crew members gained access to spaces that were damaged during the collision, the 7th Fleet said in a statement Sunday.
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin declined to say how numerous seven missing sailors had been recovered from the Fitzgerald because the families of those who died were still being informed Sunday.
USS Fitzgerald, aided by tug boats, returned to Yokosuka at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday.
"He's lucky to be alive", Aucoin said. "I can't tell you how proud I am of the crew for what they did to save the ship", he said.
He said much of the crew of about 300 was asleep when the collision happened at 2:20 a.m. Saturday, and that one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged.
The Navy says the ship was damaged above and below the water line.
The victims might have been killed by the impact of the crash or drowned in the flooding, said Navy spokesman Lt. Paul Newell, who led news media on a visit to get a first-hand look at the mangled vessel.
Several Sailors' Bodies Found on Stricken Navy Destroyer
They are especially congested in the early hours of the day, with ships carrying cargo for early morning delivery in Tokyo. Seven members were missing and three injured after the USS Fitzgerald collided with the container ship ACX Crystal .
The container ship appeared to have hit the Aegis class destroyer nearly square on, severely damaging the berthing compartments where the sailors were sleeping. The area sees heavy maritime traffic, with 400 to 500 vessels crossing it daily.
It completed $21 million in upgrades and repairs in February and is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the service said. "As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port". Bryce Benson, was airlifted from the ship's deck after daybreak Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka with a head injury. The 29,000-ton Philippine ship is 222 meters long, while the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer is 154 meters long. Three major accidents have been reported in the area in the past five years, including at least one resulting in a fatality, said Masayuki Obara, a coast guard official.
U.S. military personnel work on board the damaged USS Fitzgerald at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo Sunday, June 18, 2017.
According to Jiji Press news agency, the ACX Crystal captain said his ship was "sailing in the same direction as the USA destroyer and then collided".
A USA defense officials told CNN the Navy will soon announce the first of what is likely to be multiple investigations into the collision.
The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.
Some ship trackers showed the container ship making a U-turn before the collision, a move that has raised questions about what happened.
The ACX Crystal container ship is chartered by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) and owned by Dainichi-Invest Corporation, NYK said.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message to U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday saying he was "in deep sorrow" over the Fitzgerald incident.