Seven found dead in flooded sailors' quarters on stricken US destroyer
SEVEN US Navy sailors have been found dead in a flooded sleeping quarters aboard the destroyer USS Fitzgerald after it was in collision early Saturday morning with the 2,858-TEU ACX Crystal.
Chartered by Japanese shipping giant NYK, the ACX Crystal only suffered slight damage to its port bow gunwale. All 20 crew were not injured and the ship is docked in Yokohama, not far from where the accident occurred.
But the destroyer's starboard crumpled up presenting little resistance to the impact of a ship three times its size, crushing a section of the bridge work like tin foil judging from the aerial photos posted on the web. There are 200 in the destroyer's crew and 20 aboard the Philippines-flagged box ship.
US and Japanese ships and aircraft launched a huge air and sea search for the crew but "a number of bodies" were found in the flooded quarters of the damaged destroyer USS Fitzgerald, the US 7th fleet said in a statement.
"As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision, the missing sailors were located in the flooded sleeping quarters," it said.
Names are withheld pending notification of next of kin. The Fitzgerald, with the help of tugboats, arrived back at its homeport of Yokosuka naval base, south of Tokyo, on Saturday evening.
Three people aboard the destroyer were medically evacuated, including Commander Bryce Benson, who was reportedly in a stable condition after being airlifted to the US naval hospital at the Yokosuka base, the navy said. The other two injured crewmembers were treated at the hospital for cuts and bruises.
The US 7th Fleet said the collision damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the ship's radio room. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard the Fitzgerald would have been asleep at the time of the incident.
Water had to be pumped out of flooded areas before the crushed mid-right side of the ship could be searched.NYK said in a statement it would cooperate fully with the coastguard's investigation.
Under Japan's "status of forces agreement" the US has primary jurisdiction over incidents involving vessels such as the USS Fitzgerald.
Japan's coastguard and the US navy plan to question crew members from the ACX Crystal, and could treat the collision as a possible case of endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence, Kyodo news said.
At about 29,000 tons displacement, the containership is more than three times the size of the 9,000-ton Fitzgerald, and was carrying 1,080 containers from the central Japanese port of Nagoya to Tokyo.