Seven sailors from the USS Fitzgerald, who were missing were found dead in flooded berthing compartments after the warship hit a merchant’s vessel, a US military official said.
The Navy’s 7th Fleet said searchers found the corpses Sunday morning, Japan time, after the guided-missile destroyer went back its base in Japan.
“This loss is something we all feel.” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, told reporters alongside the ship at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan Sunday.
“We have found a number of the remains … of our missing shipmates, and our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those shipmates.” he said.
The Navy would not reveal the number of dead, Aucoin said, until all families of the victims had been notified, but he asserted that all search and rescue efforts had ended.
“There was a big puncture, a big gash underneath the waterline along the bottom of the ship.” Aucoin said.
The water flow into compartments that were berthing areas for 116 of the ship’s crew was “tremendous”, he said, adding that “there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea.”
Lucky To Be Alive
Aucoin said the cabin of Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson was completely wrecked. “He’s lucky to be alive.” he added.
Benson was taken to the naval hospital at Yokosuka for treatment, according to Aucoin, as were two other sailors who were medevacked.
The admiral said the ship had been destroyed and wrecked; however, was rescued by “heroic efforts” of the crew.
“The crew had to fight very hard to keep the ship afloat.” he said.
Aucoin would not indicate to the causes of the shipwreck but said that the police would carry out several investigations into the collision, including one by the Navy’s Judge Advocate General and one by the US Coast Guard.
Other investigations could be carried out by the Japanese and Philippine authorities because of where the accident occurred and the Philippine registry of the container ship.