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Navy: Bodies of missing sailors found inside USS Fitzgerald



The
damaged USS Fitzgerald is being towed by a tugboat in the waters
near the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, after
the U.S. destroyer collided with the Philippine-registered
container ship ACX Crystal in the waters off the Izu Peninsula
Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Associated
Press/Eugene Hoshiko


YOKOSUKA, Japan (AP) — Navy divers found a number of sailors’
bodies Sunday aboard the stricken USS Fitzgerald that collided
with a container ship in the busy sea off Japan, but a
spokeswoman said not all seven missing had been accounted for.

Searchers gained access to the spaces that were damaged during
the collision and brought the remains to Naval Hospital Yokosuka
where they will be identified, the Navy said in a statement.
Seven sailors had been missing, but Yoko Kato, a spokeswoman for
the U.S. Navy in Yokosuka, said not all were recovered.

She didn’t say how many were found.

Most of the nearly 300 sailors aboard would have been asleep in
their berths at the time of the collision. Two berthing spaces, a
machinery room and the radio room were damaged and began taking
in water after the destroyer was rammed mid-right side of the
ship.

Those who did not survive might have killed by the impact of the
crash or drowned by the flooding, said Navy spokesman Lt. Paul
Newell, who led reporters for a first look at the mangled vessel.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet,
told reporters at a Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan, that search and
rescue efforts are over, and a number of bodies have been
recovered. He wouldn’t say how many, pending notification of next
of kin.

The Navy said that the families were being notified and provided
the support they need during “this difficult time.” The names of
the sailors will be released after all notifications are made.

Sixteen hours following the predawn Saturday collision, the

destroyer was pumping out water as it limped back to its home
port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo by sunset Saturday,
its crew lined up on deck. The Philippine-flagged container ship
was berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where officials began
questioning crew members about the cause of the crash.

At least three other crew members, including the captain, were
injured.

“This has been a difficult day,” Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the
commander of the 7th Fleet. “I am humbled by the bravery and
tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in
Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their
privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates,” he said
before the announcement that the bodies were found.

The USS Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted
early Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in
stable condition with a head injury, the Navy said. Two other
crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated. It was
unclear how many others may have been hurt.

The Japanese coast guard said it received an emergency call from
the container ship, the ACX Crystal, reporting the collision
around 2:20 a.m. (17:20 GMT Friday). It was questioning crew
members of the ACX Crystal, which is operated by the Japanese
shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., and was treating the incident
as a case of possible professional negligence, said Masayuki
Obara, a regional coast guard official.

“Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and
their families,” President Donald Trump said on Twitter. “Thank
you to our Japanese allies for their assistance.”

The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet)
long, the coast guard said, much larger than the 8,315-ton Navy
destroyer. The container ship’s left bow was dented and scraped,
but it did not appear to have sustained any major structural
damage.

Nippon Yusen said all of the ACX Crystal’s 20-member Filipino
crew members were safe.

Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though Yutaka
Saito of the coast guard said the area is particularly busy with
sea traffic.


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