The U.S. Navy made the grim announcement late Saturday that they had located the remains of seven sailors missing following the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship in Japanese waters.
The Navy said in a release, “The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time. They are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified.” The release did not provide the number of bodies found but a Navy official confirmed the number as all seven of the unaccounted for sailors.
Search and rescue crews were finally able to access the badly damaged areas of the Fitzgerald early Saturday with the missing sailors discovered in flooded berthing compartments. The Fitzgerald has been towed to port in Japan.
A huge gash in the hull of the Fitzgerald resulted from what was essentially being T-boned by the merchant ship, the ACX Crystal. Sea water flooded portions of the vessel, drowning the trapped servicemen in their beds, unable to escape their structurally damaged sleeping quarters. The collision occurred at 2:20 am, when most of the crew was asleep.
Adm. Scott H. Swift, the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, said, “Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors.” President Trump sent a message to the crew on Saturday morning via Twitter, “Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families. Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance.”
The cargo ship Crystal is of Philippine registry and was under charter by a Japanese company. Japanese officials said they were investigating what happened in the moments leading up to the crash, with initial indications appearing to implicate the Japanese crew, none of whom were injured. No assessment as to why the Fitzgerald was in the path of the cargo vessel or failed to take evasive action has been put forward.
The Crystal was carrying a 29,000 ton load and is about four times the size of the Fitzgerald. When it was struck, the Fitzgerald was bound for a US Naval base in Japan following a joint training exercise with Japanese warships. The Crystal was bound for Tokyo to offload its cargo.
A hotline for families of the Fitzgerald crew has been set up by the Pentagon. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer typically carries a crew of about 300 sailors.
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