Seven sailors missing after a collision between a U.S. Navy destroyer, USS Fitzgerald, and a Philippine-flagged merchant ship on Saturday have been located, with officials now advising that all seven sailors are dead.
According to the U.S. 7th Fleet and a defense official, the missing sailors were located by dive teams in flooded berthing compartments.
NBC News has just reported that the names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made. According to a statement by the 7th Fleet, “families have been notified and are being provided with the support they need.”
Officials said that the USS Fitzgerald collided with the ACX Crystal at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time, around 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. The collision damaged the Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side above and below the waterline, damaging and flooding two berthing spaces, the radio room, and machinery space.
The bodies of the missing sailors were discovered in flooded berthing compartments. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the accident.
The Navy advises that the deceased sailors have been transferred to Naval Hospital York Yokosuka ready for identification.
The Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson, and two other U.S. sailors were injured in the collision and were taken by helicopter to a naval hospital in Yokosuka, where it is understood all three are awake and under observation.
U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin commended the courage and dedication of the “Navy family,” referring to the incident as a “tough day.”
“It’s hard to imagine what this crew has had to endure, the challenges they’ve had to overcome, but I’m extremely proud of their courage and dedication.”
Heavy reported that the name of the first of seven sailors now confirmed dead has been released by local media in Virginia. At this point, the U.S. Navy has not formally confirmed the identities of the other deceased sailors.
Dakota Rigsby was from Fluvanna County in Virginia, and Rigsby’s devastated family has asked the community for its prayers. Dakota was a graduate of Fluvanna County High School and was a volunteer firefighter, volunteering for the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Department.
Rigsby proudly wrote on his Facebook page that he was a Gunner’s Mate in the United States Navy. Before he left, one friend wrote on one of his comment threads: “I’m too excited for you to get to Japan!!!!”
The Daily Mail reported that the bodies were found on Sunday morning after the USS Fitzgerald returned to its base in Japan.
Japan’s coast guard officials said that the sea and air search was ongoing.
According to a statement released by officials at 10:33 a,m. on Sunday, “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 Japanese Coast Guard said it received an emergency call at around 2:20 a.m. on Saturday from the ACX Crystal, reporting the collision with the USS Fitzgerald. The ACX Crystal is operated by the Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen KK, and according to regional coast guard official Masayuko Obara, the incident is being treated as a case of possible professional negligence.
The owners of the commercial ship reported that all 20 of its Filipino crew were safe.
Now that Caroline Kennedy, the official ambassador to Japan, has returned home and the Trump administration has not announced a replacement, the United States has not been able to speculate on the shocking accident.
Let's all keep the brave sailors of the USS Fitzgerald in our thoughts & prayers this weekend.https://t.co/0bMEX2F2Qd— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 17, 2017
However, the course of the ACX Crystal shows that it performed a rapid U-turn at speed to head back to Tokyo, and it was at this point it collided with the USS Fitzgerald. It is unclear just how fast the destroyer was going when it collided with the merchant ship, but according to the Coast Guard, the area is particularly busy with sea traffic.
In his statement, Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, said: “As more information is learned we will be sure to share it with the Fitzgerald families and, when appropriate, the public.”
“Thank you for your well wishes and messages of concern. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families.”
[Featured Image by Eugene Hoshiko/AP Images]