All seven missing sailors from the USS Fitzgerald were found dead in flooded berthing compartments following the warship’s collision with a merchant vessel, a US Navy official tells CNN.
The Navy’s 7th Fleet said searchers found the bodies Sunday morning Japan time after the ship returned to its base in Japan.
“The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time. The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made,” the Navy said in a statement without specifying the number of bodies that had been recovered.
The bodies were taken to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka.
The 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship flagged in the Philippines, collided early Saturday local time in off Japan’s Izu Peninsula, officials said. The area sees heavy maritime traffic, with 400 to 500 vessels crossing it daily.
The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.
Naval commanders praised the sailors for containing flooding caused by the collision, stabilizing the ship and sailing it back to port at the US naval base in Yokosuka.
While photos showed serious damage above the waterline, the container ship also did severe damage below it.
A 7th Fleet statement said the collision did “significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room.”
Container ships like the Crystal have bulbous bows under the waterline and that portion of the cargo vessel plowed into the US warship.
The Fitzgerald had left the base Friday for routine operations.
Fitzgerald’s commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was evacuated by a Japanese naval helicopter while US military copters evacuated two injured US sailors. All three were in stable condition at the US Naval Hospital, said Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for US Naval Forces Japan.
SOURCE: Barbara Starr, Brad Lendon and Steve Almasy