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US Navy Still Searching for Sailors Missing After Collision at Sea

  • VOA News

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

The U.S. Navy continued its search early Sunday for seven sailors who were missing after the destroyer on which they were deployed was struck by a container ship off the coast of Japan.

The USS Dewey and other American and Japanese vessels and aircraft were involved in the search for the missing sailors, the Navy said.

The USS Fitzgerald collided early Saturday with the merchant vessel ACX Crystal — a ship about four times the size of the destroyer. The 29,000-ton Philippine ship is 222 meters long, while the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer is 154 meters long.

The Navy said the collision occurred about midship on the starboard side, damaging two sailor berthing stations, a machinery room and a radio room. The Fitzgerald returned to port at Yokosuka, Japan.

The destroyer sustained damage above and below the water line and had "experienced flooding in some spaces," the Navy said.

The missing sailors' names were being withheld, pending notification of their families.

In this photo released by Japan's Defense Ministry, an injured USS Fitzgerald crew member is carried by U.S. military personnel, left, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force members upon arriving at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, June 17, 2017.
In this photo released by Japan's Defense Ministry, an injured USS Fitzgerald crew member is carried by U.S. military personnel, left, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force members upon arriving at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, June 17, 2017.

Injured sailors

In addition to the missing sailors, three other sailors, including ship Commander Bryce Benson, were injured.

Benson was airlifted to the U.S. naval hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition with a head injury. The two other sailors suffered cuts and bruises and were taken off the ship.

It was unclear how many others may have been injured in the crash, which occurred about 100 kilometers southwest of Yokosuka at 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time, according to the Navy's 7th Fleet, which operates in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.

At that time, many of the 200 sailors aboard the Fitzgerald would have been sleeping in their berths.

"It's been a tough day for our Navy family," Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, said Saturday. "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."

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

In this photo released by Japan's 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, the damage of Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal is seen in the waters off Izu Peninsula, southwest of Tokyo, after it had collided with the USS Fitzgerald, June 17, 2017.
In this photo released by Japan's 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, the damage of Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal is seen in the waters off Izu Peninsula, southwest of Tokyo, after it had collided with the USS Fitzgerald, June 17, 2017.

Container ship

The ACX Crystal sailed into Tokyo on Saturday afternoon with minor damage to its bow. None of the 20-member crew on the Philippine-flagged container ship was reported injured.

According to the Jiji Press news agency, the ACX Crystal captain said his ship was "sailing in the same direction as the U.S. destroyer and then collided."

Such collisions between two ships are rare. It was not immediately clear what caused the vessels to collide.

Yukata Saito of the Japanese coast guard said conditions were clear at the time of the collision.

"The volume of ships is heavy in this area and there have been accidents before," Saito told Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

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