Collision caused significant damage to US destroyer - Seventh Fleet commander

Claudine Rigal
Juin 18, 2017

A United States destroyer has returned to port after a collision with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Japan badly damaged the vessel and left seven sailors missing.

The 154 meter-long US guided-missile destroyer, which suffered considerable damage to its right side in the collision, is part of the USA 7th Fleet and has returned to the Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, about 50 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

Naval commanders praised the sailors for containing flooding caused by the collision, stabilizing the ship and sailing it back to port at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka.

The U.S. Navy destroyer collided early Saturday morning with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan, the country's coast guard reported. Bryce Benson, the ship's commanding officer, was evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, home base of the 7th Fleet.

T-boned, damaged and taking on water, the USS Fitzgerald sat crippled off the coast of Japan early Saturday.

Commander of the Seventh Fleet Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said only frantic damage control efforts had saved the ship.

The 29,000 tonne container ship, ASX Crystal, dwarfed the 8,000 tonne guided missile destroyer. The crew had to fight to keep the ship afloat, he said, and the ship's captain is lucky to have survived. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time.

Three others were injured in the collision, local media said, including Cmdr.

"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.

Rescuers were searching for seven sailors who were thought to have been thrown into the sea or possibly trapped inside damaged sections of the destroyer, said Japanese coast guard spokesman Yoshihito Nakamura.

The USS Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, commissioned in 1995, and is based in Yokosuka, according to the US Navy.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collision.

"As more information is learned, we will be sure to share to it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public".

Water rushed into the ship as the impact crushed the Fitzgerald's forward starboard side, above and below the waterline, damaging two berthing spaces, a machinery area and the ship's radio room, the Navy said. "Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance", U.S. President Donald Trump said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

Their names will not be released until their families have been notified, the Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

NHK also described the other vessel as a Philippine merchant ship, and the U.S. 7th Fleet tweeted that it was the ACX Crystal, a 29,000 ton container vessel.

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