U.S. destroyer returns to port; 7 missing

Posted June 27, 2017

A number of the seven US Navy sailors missing after a collision between a destroyer and a container ship have been found dead, the Seventh Fleet said.

The U.S. Navy said Sunday that the search is continuing for seven missing American sailors in the sea off Japan, after a huge cargo ship collided with a Navy destroyer. Personnel at the Yokosuka Naval Hospital will make the identification of the deceased sailors.

Seven sailors were reported missing after Saturday's pre-dawn collision, triggering a major search operation off Japan's Pacific coast, and U.S. authorities tacitly acknowledged there were no survivors.

Investigations were being launched into how the collision, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, took place, Aucoin said. Two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room were damaged or flooded, the Fleet said earlier.

"They are now being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified".

Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan, Rear Adm. Greg Fenton, echoed the same message, saying, "Navy Region Japan and the shore enterprise are 100% committed to providing support to these families during this hard time".

A US Navy spokesman in Yokosuka said the USS Fitzgerald sailed into port on Saturday evening, listing around 5 degrees.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said the collision led to the flooding of the crew's sleeping quarters while they were asleep. "It will take months, hopefully under a year" for repairs.

As for Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the ship's commanding officer, Aucoin said, "He is, uhh".

"We have found the remains of a number of our missing" sailors, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin said, per the Japan Times.

The 154-metre Fitzgerald - commissioned in 1995 and deployed in the Iraq war in 2003 - was pulled by a tugboat back to its base on Saturday, where divers searched damaged areas of the destroyer.

It's still unclear exactly what happened, but Japanese media reported that the ACX Crystal made a "sharp turn" shortly before the pre-dawn crash, per The Guardian.

The collision caused damage to the Fitzgerald's forward starboard side above and below the waterline.

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

Damage to the destroyer Fitzgerald is seen at the Yokosuka naval base, home of the Navy's Seventh Fleet.

At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship dwarfs the 8,315-ton USA warship. Dive teams will inspect the damage after the Fitzgerald's return to port in Yokosuka, Japan.