Bodies recovered from inside USS Fitzgerald; investigation continues
PHOTO: US NAVY/REUTERS
The bodies of seven U.S. sailors missing following a collision between a U.S. destroyer and a cargo ship near Japan have been recovered from inside the destroyer, U.S. defense officials said.
The seven sailors were found in a berthing area of the vessel below the waterline, the officials said.
The USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippines-registered ACX Crystal early Saturday local time, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, near Tokyo. The impact caused significant damage to the 500-foot-long Fitzgerald above and below the waterline, resulting in flooding, the Navy said.
An investigation into the cause of the collision is continuing, U.S. and Japanese officials say.
Nippon Yusen K.K . , the Japanese shipping company that operates the 728-foot-long ACX Crystal cargo ship, said all of the 20 crew members were safe. The company said it would fully cooperate with an investigation into the cause of the collision.
The Fitzgerald reached Yokosuka, home of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, under its own power around 6 p.m. Saturday, the Navy said.
Three sailors were evacuated from the Fitzgerald by air for emergency treatment after suffering cuts and bruises. They included the ship’s commanding officer, Bryce Benson.
The Fitzgerald had recently taken part in exercises in the Sea of Japan with two U.S. carrier strike groups and Japanese navy ships.
Collisions at sea for the U.S. Navy are extremely uncommon, said Bryan McGrath, a former destroyer captain, who said they occur only once or twice a decade if that. He said he couldn’t remember a recent collision that was “this consequential.”
“There are 275 ships in the Navy and 100 are under way all over the world,” navigating “millions and millions of miles” every year, said Mr. McGrath, who retired in 2008 and is now a consultant. “This is very, very rare.”
Mr. McGrath declined to speculate as to what occurred or who or what might be to blame in the Fitzgerald incident. The collision occurred in darkness in a high-traffic area of the Pacific, he said.
“The destroyer is phenomenally maneuverable,” he said. But there comes a point where there is nothing either ship can do to avoid a collision, he said.
President Donald Trump tweeted early Saturday: “Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families. Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance.”
Updated June 17, 2017 10:03 p.m. ET