The US Navy today said that the search is continuing for seven missing American sailors in the sea off Japan, after a huge cargo ship collided with a Navy destroyer. US and Japanese vessels and aircraft have been looking for the missing crew members of the USS Fitzgerald, which crashed with a container ship four times its size in the pre- dawn hours yesterday. In a tweet today, the Navy said the search is continuing.
It said it remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces inside the damaged destroyer in order to methodically search for the missing crew members. The damaged destroyer was back at its home port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo by sunset yesterday, its crew lined up on deck. The Philippine-flagged container ship was berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where officials began questioning crew members about the cause of the crash.
After helping stabilise the USS Fitzgerald, the destroyer USS Dewey joined other American and Japanese vessels and aircraft in the search for the missing sailors. At least three other Navy sailors were injured in the crash.
Family members were frantically seeking news, appealing via social media for calls from sailors aboard the ship. The US 7th Fleet said in a statement that the crash damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the pre-dawn crash.
Water was being pumped out of flooded areas, and it was unclear how long it would take to get into the crushed mid- right side of the ship once it was at the pier in Yokosuka, the statement said. “This has been a difficult day,” said Vice Adm Joseph P. Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet. “I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates.”
The USS Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr Bryce Benson, was airlifted early yesterday to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition with a head injury, the Navy said. Two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated. It was unclear how many others may have been hurt. The Navy said that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles (103 kilometers) southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet.