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U.S. destroyer nearly foundered after collision, bodies found - Seventh Fleet

18 Juin 2017

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed by a tugboat upon its arrival at the USA naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017.

The USS Fitzgerald, flanked by two tug boats and other support vessels, was listing to its right as it slowly approached the port at the Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo.

The damage of the right side of the USS Fitzgerald is seen off Shimoda, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan, after the Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship, Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Their names will not be released until their families have been notified, the Seventh Fleet said in a statement. The skipper, who was injured in the head and airlifted to shore, was also in his room resting, Aucoin said, adding that he was lucky to have survived.

Aucoin said the USS Fitzgerald could have foundered, or even sunk, but for the crew's desperate efforts to save the ship.

The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.

"There was a big puncture, a big gash underneath the waterline" along the bottom of the ship, Aucoin said.

The Navy said in a statement that Cmdr.

It is unclear where the 154-metre (505ft) guided missile destroyer ship was heading at the time.

Her grandson Jackson Schrimsher is a 23-year-old sailor aboard the USS Fitzgerald.

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"This has been a hard day", said Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet.

The Japanese coast guard said four of its vessels and one helicopter were assisting the US Naval destroyer with damage assessment and searching the area around the ship, working on the possibility that some of the missing may have fallen into the ocean.

Aucoin was asked if damage on the starboard side indicated the USA ship could have been at fault but he declined to speculate on the cause of the collision. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan. Personnel at the Yokosuka Naval Hospital will make the identification of the deceased sailors.

NYK and the ship's owner are cooperating a Japan Coast Guard investigation into the collision, the shipping firm said.

Benson was reported to be in stable condition, while the other two were treated for lacerations and bruises.

All of the ACX Crystal's 20-member Filipino crew were safe, said Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., which operates the Philippine-flagged ship.

A U.S. defence official said there was flooding in three compartments of the Fitzgerald.

The last known fatal incident in the zone was in 2015, when a South Korean vessel and a Japanese container ship collided, Japan's coast guard reported.

Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though the area is particularly busy with sea traffic.