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Sunday, June 18, 2017, 19:01
Bodies of missing sailors found on stricken US destroyer
By Reuters
Sunday, June 18, 2017, 19:01 By Reuters

In this June 17, 2017 photo, the damaged USS Fitzgerald is seen off Yokosuka, near Tokyo, Japan, after the Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship. The US Navy says the bodies of sailors who went missing in the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship have been found aboard the stricken destroyer. (Hitoshi Takano/Kyodo News via AP, File)

YOKOSUKA, Japan – The bodies of a number of sailors who were missing after the US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a container vessel were found in flooded compartments of the damaged ship, the US Seventh Fleet said on Sunday.

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

The USS Fitzgerald collidedwith the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel more than threetimes its size some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka early on Saturday

"Divers were able to access the space and found a number of bodies," the Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

It said in an earlier statement the sailors were being transferred to a US naval hospital where they would be identified.

"The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time," the Seventh Fleet said.

The Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collidedwith the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel more than threetimes its size some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosukaearly on Saturday.

Three people were medically evacuated to the US NavalHospital in Yokosuka after the collision, including the ship'scommanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson, who was reported tobe in stable condition, the Navy said.

The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises.

The USS Fitzgerald sailed into port on Saturday evening, listing around 5 degrees, a US Navy spokesman in Yokosuka said. The flooding was in two berthing compartments, the radio room and auxiliary machine room.

The bodies were found in the berthing compartments, the navy spokesman said, suggesting they could have been asleep at time of collision. There were 285 crew onboard.

It was unclear how the collision happened. "Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed," a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet said.

Japanese authorities were looking into the possibility of "endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence", Japanese media reported, but it was not clear whether that might apply to either or both of the vessels.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, speaks during a press conference on the status of the damaged USS Fitzgerald, seen behind, and search and rescue efforts for seven missing Fitzgerald sailors at the US Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, June 18, 2017. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP)

The US Navy said the collision happened at about 2:30 am local time (1730 GMT Friday), while the Japanese Coast Guard said it was 1:30 am local time.

The Fitzgerald suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline, causing "significant damage", the US Navy said on Saturday.

Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ACX Crystal, said in a statement on Saturday it would "cooperate fully" with the Coast Guard's investigation of the incident. 

The damage of Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal is seen off Izu Oshima, Japan, after it had collided with the USS Fitzgerald southwest of Yokusuka, Japan, June 17, 2017. The US Navy says the USS Fitzgerald suffered damage below the water line on its starboard side after it collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant ship. (Iori Sagisawa/Kyodo News via AP)

At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship dwarfs the 8,315-ton US warship. It was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

None of the 20 crew members aboard the container ship, all Filipino, were injured, and the ship was not leaking oil, Nippon Yusen said. The ship arrived at Tokyo Bay later on Saturday.

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