News & Politics

Seven Sailors Still Missing After Collision Between U.S. Destroyer and Cargo Ship

A collision between the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship, off the coast of Japan has resulted in seven sailors going missing. The cause of the collision is currently unknown.

A statement from 7th Fleet headquarters:

As of this time, there have been two patients requiring medical evacuation. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and is reportedly in stable condition. A second MEDEVAC is in progress. Other injured are being assessed. There are seven Sailors unaccounted for; the ship and the Japanese Coast Guard continues to search for them.

Although Fitzgerald is under her own power, USS Dewey (DDG 105) got underway this morning as well as several U.S. Navy aircraft, and will join Japanese Coast Guard and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters, ships and aircraft to render whatever assistance may be required.

“U.S. and Japanese support from the Navy, Maritime Self Defense Force and Coast Guard are in the area to ensure that the Sailors on USS Fitzgerald have the resources they need to stabilize their ship. As more information is learned, we will be sure to share to 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,” said Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations.

“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. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”

President Trump also thanked the Japanese government for their assistance in rescue operations.

CNN:

The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.

“This has been a difficult day,” Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, said.

Forces overnight intensified their search for the missing sailors and tried to get a handle on the cause of a crash in a busy maritime zone crossed daily by 400 to 500 ships.

US and Japanese crafts scoured the spot where the collision happened, about 56 nautical miles southwest Yokosuka and 12 miles off the Izu Peninsula.

The missing sailors could be trapped in a damaged section of the destroyer, a statement from the 7th Fleet suggested.

“It remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces once the ship is pier side … to methodically continue the search for the missing,” the statement said.

An aerial photo shows the USS Fitzgerald that was damaged by the collision with the Philippine cargo ship at off the coast of Izuoshima on June 17, 2017. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

It sounds as if the cargo ship struck the Fitzgerald at almost a 90-degree angle:

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, where divers inspected its damage and developed a plan for repairs and inspection. The ship had left the base on Friday for routine operations.

“The collision affected Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room,” the 7th Fleet’s statement said.

Serving in the U.S. military — any branch of service — carries risks outside of combat. Deaths and injuries in non-combat operations have been falling in recent decades, but risks that our military people encounter every day in handling high explosives, flying supersonic aircraft, or even just driving into town on liberty can result in tragedy.

Let’s hope they find those sailors onboard, and find them quickly.

Update 3:35 EST: The Fitzgerald, aided by tugboats, returned to Yokosuka: