Seven Sailors Missing After US Navy Destroyer Collides With Merchant Vessel Off Japan

Update 3: as of 6pm ET, the seven missing sailors have still not been found.

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Update 2:  In its latest update, the Navy reports that USS Fitzgerald, aided by tug boats, returned to Yokosuka at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday evening, however seven of Fitzgerald's crew remain missing. Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, along with many family members, were on the pier when the ship arrived.

Clips of the USS Fitzgerald returning to Yokosuka with divers inspecting the damage:

"This has been a difficult day," Aucoin said. "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."

"I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald Sailors who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances," said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 70.

As in the update, the Navy writes that once the ship arrived in Yokosuka, divers began inspecting the damage and developing a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces. Three patients required medical evacuation from the ship. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald's commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka by a JMSDF helicopter. All three Sailors are awake and will remain under observation at the hospital until further notice. Other injured are being assessed.

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Update: Seven sailors of the US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald were missing hours after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship four times its size in eastern Japan early on Saturday. As reported earlier (see below), the Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the merchant vessel at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT), some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, the Navy said.

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

The names of the missing sailors were being withheld pending notification of their families, according to the AP. U.S. Navy personnel set up support and counseling services to help families as they sought updates on crew members.

After helping stabilize 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 collision, and were medically evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, including the ship's commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was reported to be in stable condition, the Navy said. The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises, while other injured were being assessed aboard the ship, it said.

Search and rescue efforts by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels were continuing for the seven missing sailors, the Navy said. Their names are being withheld until the families have been notified, it said. Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

The 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.

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors," said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Navy said that the Fitzgerald suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline, causing "significant damage" and flooding to two berthing spaces and other areas of the ship. The flooding was later stabilized, but it was uncertain how long it would take to gain access to those spaces once the ship is docked, to continue the search for the missing, it said and added that the ship was able to operate under its own power with limited propulsion. The Japanese Coast Guard said separately the Fitzgerald was towed back to Yokosuka by a tugboat at about 3 knots.

Part of an eight-ship squadron based in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald had in February completed $21 million worth of upgrades and repairs. Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ASX Crystal, said in a statement it would "cooperate fully" with the Coast Guard's investigation of the incident. At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship dwarfs the 8,315-ton U.S. warship, and 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 around 5:00 p.m. (0800 GMT), sailing under its own power, the Coast Guard said.

The Japanese coast guard said it received an emergency call from the container ship, the ACX Crystal, reporting the collision at around 2:20 a.m. (1720 GMT Friday). It was questioning crew members of the ACX Crystal, which is operated by the Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., and was treating the incident as a case of possible professional negligence, said Masayuki Obara, a regional coast guard official.

The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet) long, the coast guard said, much larger than the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer. The container ship's left bow was dented and scraped, but it did not appear to have sustained any major structural damage.

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Earlier

The USS Fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer, collided with a merchant vessel southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, the U.S. Navy said in a statement on Friday afternoon. The crash happened at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time on June 17, and the Navy requested Japan's Coast Guard's assistance.

Aerial footage of the destroyer after the collision

The Navy said the Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka and the extent of injuries to U.S. personnel "is being determined." It added that the Navy had requested the assistance of the Japanese Coast Guard.

According to Reuters, Japan's NHK public television website reported that the commercial vessel is a Philippines container ship and that the destroyer had suffered some flooding and was "unable to operate".

Full navy statement below:

USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

 

The U.S. Navy has requested Japanese Coast Guard assistance in responding to the collision.

 

The extent of damage is being determined. The extent of personnel injuries is being determined. The incident will be investigated.

The Fitzgerald recently made a port call to the US Navy's Subic Bay base in the Philippines and conducted patrols in the South China Sea. The destroyer maintains constant contact with Japan as it is forward-based in Yokosuka.

The latest weekly summary of US naval asset around the world is shown in the map below. It shows that the the Nimitz carrier group is headed for the Middle East, via Hawaii, while the Vinson is also leaving the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, the Persian Gulf is lightly attended, following the departure of the USS Bush which recently was headed west in the Med, only to make an unexpected 180 and is now parked off the coast of Israel.

Comments

greenskeeper carl PrayingMantis Fri, 06/16/2017 - 17:51 Permalink

Collisions at sea between two ships manned by professional Mariners are easier than you might think. A large container ship could crush a destroyer. They really aren't that big. My guess( and this is purely speculation on my part) is the navy boat had right of way in accordance with the rules, but the container ship was relying on 'the law of gross tonnage' which in layman a terms means 'I'm much bigger than you, so YOU move'.

In reply to by PrayingMantis

californiagirl PrayingMantis Fri, 06/16/2017 - 20:58 Permalink

The Navy hit a container ship?  Really?  The damage to the the navy ship doesn't look like we were the ones doing the ramming.  What pointy part of the container ship did the destroyer run into with its side, since such a small section of the destroyer was impacted?  There also must have been something pointy on that container ship below the waterline that punched a hole into the destroyer because, from the photos, the damage seems to be primarily above the water line, but the reports say the destroyer took on lots of water.  Wouldn't the pointy end of the container ship be the bow?  And wouldn't that mean the container ship hit the Fitzgerald? https://mobile.twitter.com/StratSentinel/status/875846541726150656/phot… ACX Crystal container ship travel route can be seen when you click on the Map icon at https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/index/itineraries/all/shipid:72216….  There is an interesting loop.

In reply to by PrayingMantis

OverTheHedge luky luke Sat, 06/17/2017 - 02:22 Permalink

I'll just ignore your spam, as per usual, but use your comment as a handy place to hang mine. Frankly, you serve no other purpose.Back to the article -I was going to say that this sort of thing happens in the English Chanel a lot - monster container ships run over fishing boats, and anything else that might be wandering about on a disturbingly regular basis. The chances of having any member of crew a) looking at what is in front of them, and b) having someone on the bridge actually navigating and looking at radar etc, is pretty slim. One Danish captain, and a crew of a dozen Philippinos  or sub-Saharan Africans who are all off doing other stuff, because they are seriously short-handed.However, it turns out that I might have made all of that up, or it is part of the collective unconscious / urban myths of the Westcountry (we do a lot of fishing, and people die - it's a fairly dangerous occupation). Here is a list of lots and lots of accidents, as per UK government, but the surprise is there are not that many, and certainly not container ships ploughing through all that get in their way - worth a look: https://www.gov.uk/maib-reports?report_type%5B%5D=investigation-report

In reply to by luky luke

Manthong svayambhu108 Sat, 06/17/2017 - 11:56 Permalink

 
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Geez.. I guess it got destroyed.. There is no excuse for this.

In reply to by svayambhu108

Manthong peddling-fiction Sat, 06/17/2017 - 19:40 Permalink

 
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..gosh .. Almighty How many parts of the defense system came from out Chinese friends?

In reply to by peddling-fiction

Manthong AllOfGood Sat, 06/17/2017 - 12:03 Permalink

 
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I'm making over $700K a month working part time for Goldman Sachs steeling fiat from muppets . I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make from sapping fiat from schluibs, so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all fake but a good opportunity and has totally changed my life. This is what I do

In reply to by AllOfGood

kellys_eye HenryHall Sat, 06/17/2017 - 14:24 Permalink

Typical Guardian BS.  Container ships are NOT highly maneouverable - like a Frigate IS - they take minutes to alter course, not seconds.I'd guess the Frigate was playing 'swervy' across the container ship bow to either force a change of direction or demonstrate their 'superiority' in some way.Dickhead action with predictable result.Merchant vessels are fitted with VDR (voyage data recorders) so let's hope the data isn't 'corrupted' - shall we say......

In reply to by HenryHall

land_of_the_few Mr 9x19 Sat, 06/17/2017 - 14:44 Permalink

The esteemed gentlemen Mr Jeff Bezos and Mr Capt. John W. Trimmer can help them. They can help them real good.How to Avoid Huge Ships Paperback – March, 1993https://www.amazon.com/Avoid-Huge-Ships-John-Trimmer/dp/0870334336http:… Sgt. Rock can help with any lady troubles.XTC - Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vE8ldywLXvQAnd seriously, huge sympathies to any crew who sadly met their end, it must have been a pretty horrible incident and top marks for keeping it afloat. 

In reply to by Mr 9x19