Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Culture | By Julio Duncan

Missing sailors found dead in flooded compartments on US Navy destroyer

Missing sailors found dead in flooded compartments on US Navy destroyer

The bodies of seven US sailors missing after a Navy destroyer collided with a container ship off Japan were found in flooded berthing compartments, a defense official said.

Japan's chartering ship company, Nippon Yusen KK, which commissioned the container ship that struck the USS Fitzgerald, said in a declaration on Saturday it would fully cooperate with the United Stated Coast Guard and the investigation of the collision.

The Navy's 7th Fleet said searchers found the bodies Sunday morning Japan time after the ship returned to its base in Japan. USA authorities tacitly acknowledged there were no survivors, although Aucoin declined to say how many bodies had been recovered until relatives of the dead sailors are notified.

In this Saturday, Junes 17, 2017, photo, the damaged USS Fitzgerald is seen off Yokosuka, near Tokyo, Japan, after the Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship.

The collision with the container ship tore "a big gash underneath the water line" and the crew had to fight to keep the vessel from foundering or sinking, Aucoin said.

Aucoin said Benson's cabin was destroyed. Other injured are being assessed aboard the ship.

Aucoin said that much of the crew of about 300 was asleep when the collision happened at 2:20 a.m. Saturday, and that one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged.

Aucoin said the commander's living area was among many spots on the ship that received significant damage.

A Navy spokesman said the victims might have been killed by the impact of the collision or drowned in the flooding. The incident happened early Saturday morning as numerous crew slept.

Mia Sykes, the mother of a sailor who survived the direct hit to his sleeping berth, told AP that her son kept diving to try to save his shipmates until the flooded berth began running out of air pockets. He said the area of the ship that was struck and the timing of the accident make the response more hard. Aucoin said the Fitzgerald is salvageable but that repairs will likely take months.

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors", said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bryce Benson, was airlifted from the ship's deck after daybreak Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka with a head injury. Three major accidents have been reported in the area in the past five years, including at least one resulting in a fatality, said Masayuki Obara, a coast guard official.

Aucoin declined to say what might be to blame for the accident, the cause of which is being investigated.

Marine traffic records suggest the ACX Crystal, a 222-meter Filipino-flagged container ship, made a sudden U-turn roughly 25 minutes before the crash.

Marine tracking data showed the container ship, the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, which was sailing from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo, performed a sudden 180-degree turn in the busy shipping lane south of Yokosuka and doubled back along its path shortly before the crash.

Japanese media said all seven of the sailors who had been reported missing were found dead.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a sympathy message Sunday to President Trump. However, a U.S. Navy spokeswoman said not all of the missing bodies were recovered.

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