Published: Tue, June 27, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

US Navy: bodies of missing sailors found inside damaged destroyer USS Fitzgerald

US Navy: bodies of missing sailors found inside damaged destroyer USS Fitzgerald

The missing crew's bodies were found as tugs towed the stricken ship back to the Yokosuka naval base.

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

USS Fitzgerald collided with ACX Crystal, a merchant vessel registered in the Philippines, at around 2:30 a.m. local time, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

The missing crew members were feared lost after the 8,300-ton destroyer collided with a 29,000-ton merchant vessel about 55 miles southwest of Yokosuka, where the US 7th Fleet is headquartered.

The incident happened at around 2.30am local time on Saturday, around 56 nautical miles southwest of the United States base in Yokosuka.

The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons and is 730ft, the coastguard said, much larger than the 8,315-ton destroyer. They are safe. The ship itself was slightly damaged from the incident, added DFA.

The Fitzgerald is based in Yokosuka and has a crew of approximately 330 sailors.

The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, said DFA, will continue to coordinate with Japanese authorities. The Navy said the ship was damaged above and below the water line.

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"This loss is something we all feel", Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told reporters alongside the ship at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan Sunday.

The USS Fitzgerald's captain, Bryce Benson, escaped from his cabin. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

Is it not yet clear how the collision between the two advanced ships could have happened, or which ship was at fault, but an investigation is already underway.

The initial Navy investigation will gather facts about what happened, with the 7th Fleet commander eventually deciding what disciplinary action is warranted, the official said.

The fleet's commander, Vice Admiral Joseph P Aucoin, was on the pier together with many family members when the ship arrived, it said.

At a press conference in Japan on Sunday, Aucoin would not confirm how many remains had been found so far. USA aircraft as well as Japanese helicopters were dispatched to help assist the search effort. They were transferred to a US naval hospital for identification, it said. He said a search and rescue effort was ended. "All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families", he also said.

About 400 vessels pass through the shipping lane each day, the Japanese Coast Guard said.

Container ships like the Crystal have bulbous bows under the waterline and that portion of the cargo vessel plowed into the United States warship. Dive teams will inspect the damage after the Fitzgerald's return to port in Yokosuka, Japan. It was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

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