Bodies of missing U.S. sailors found after destroyer collision, Navy says

Bodies of missing U.S. sailors found after destroyer collision, Navy says

Last Updated Jun 17, 2017 11:28 PM EDT

Bodies of missing sailors have been found in the flooded berthing compartments of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald, one day after it collided with a merchant ship off the Japanese coast, the U.S. Navy said in a statement on Saturday. 

The bodies are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified, the Navy said. 

Yoko Kato, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy in Yokosuka, told the Associated Press that not all seven bodies were recovered. 

The Fitzgerald was struck by the Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal. The Philippine ship is 29,060 tons and 730 long, the coast guard said, much larger than the 8,315-ton naval destroyer. Aerial television news footage showed its bow on the left side was dented and scraped, but it did not appear to have suffered any major structural damage.

The area is particularly busy with sea traffic, said Yutaka Saito of the coast guard.

Japanese vessels first arrived on the scene and the coast guard is leading the search. U.S. aircraft is assisting in the effort, along with several Japanese helicopters and one plane, the 7th Fleet said.

The collision injured the vessel "above and below the water line, causing significant damage," the 7th Fleet said.

The Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer commissioned in 1995, is based in Yokosuka, according to the Navy. Its crew typically includes 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors.   

The Fitzgerald's captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition, the 7th Fleet said in a statement. Two other crew suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated, it said. It was unclear how many others may have been hurt.

The Fitzgerald had limited propulsion after suffering damage on the right side below the water line and a U.S. defense official said there was flooding in three compartments. It wasn't clear yet what caused the nighttime collision between the destroyer and the container ship four times its size. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths, some of which were reportedly flooded. 

It wasn't clear what caused the crash.

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