Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, right, Commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, speaks during a press conference near the damaged USS Fitzgerald, rear, at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo Sunday. Photo: AP
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Destroyer came close to sinking after collision; bodies found: Fleet commander

39 Comments
By Tim Kelly and Linda Sieg

The bodies of missing sailors were found in flooded compartments of the USS Fitzgerald, which came close to sinking after a collision with a container ship off Japan tore a gash under the warship's waterline, the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet commander said on Sunday.

An earlier Navy statement had said the bodies of several sailors were found in the berthing compartments inside the guided missile destroyer but U.S. Seventh fleet Commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin declined to say how many.

The search at sea has been called off, he told a news conference at Yokosuka naval base.

Aucoin said the USS Fitzgerald could have foundered, or even sunk, but for the crew's desperate efforts to save the ship.

"The damage was significant. There was a big gash under the water," Aucoin said.

"A significant portion of the crew was sleeping" when the destroyer collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship, destroying the commander's cabin, he said.

The Fitzgerald is salvageable, he said, but repairs will likely take months. "Hopefully less than a year. You will see the USS Fitzgerald back," Aucoin said.

Aucoin was asked if damage on the starboard side indicated the U.S. ship could have been at fault but he declined to speculate on the cause of the collision. Maritime rules suggest vessels are supposed to give way to ships on their starboard.

damage.jpg
The damaged Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald is seen at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Japanese media said all seven of the sailors who had been reported missing were found dead.

The U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement earlier on Sunday: "Divers were able to access the space and found a number of bodies." They were transferred to a U.S. naval hospital for identification, it said.

"The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time," it said.

The Fitzgerald collided with the merchant vessel more than three times its size some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka early on Saturday.

Three people were medically evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka after the collision, including the ship's commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson, who was reported to be in stable condition, the Navy said.

The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises.

The USS Fitzgerald sailed into port on Saturday evening, listing around 5 degrees, a U.S. Navy spokesman in Yokosuka said. The flooding was in two berthing compartments, the radio room and auxiliary machine room, he said.

There were 285 crew onboard, the spokesman said.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

It was unclear how the collision happened. "Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed," a spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet said.

Japanese authorities were looking into the possibility of "endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence", Japanese media reported, but it was not clear whether that might apply to either or both of the vessels.

The U.S. Navy said the collision happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time, while the Japanese Coast Guard said it was 1:30 a.m. local time.

Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ACX Crystal, said in a statement on Saturday 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. It 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 later on Saturday.

The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan’s two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

© Thomson Reuters 2017.

©2017 GPlusMedia Inc.

39 Comments
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RIP Sailors. Condolences to your families, friends and shipmates. Hats off to those involved in responding to the emergency.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

That sucks. Death of sailors not even during war, but by an accident and most likely drowned unless knocked out or killed outright by the collision.

Still curious how this could of happened with all the technology and hands on deck or at least watchers.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

This is very sad. Men and women enlist knowing the risk, but nevertheless this is terrible news. I hope the Navy can do something for their survivors.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

lots of technology that a simple radar and VR would have done the job.  This case is very strange indeed, but to get to the bottom line one will have to turn to Alex Jones...

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

My condolences to the familes of those lost, its always a tragedy when things like this happen.

Serious questions need to be asked now?  All that technology and yet it still got hit? Something went very wrong somewhere.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The first rule of the sea is: you see big ship coming, you move (or you will be moved) the heck out of its way...

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Very sad Rip sailors.After looking at the vessels involved and the damage seems the destroyer was in the wrong came straight across the bow of the container ship.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

So is this going to be written off as an accident or is someone gonna be charged for the deaths.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

seems the destroyer was in the wrong came straight across the bow of the container ship.

OR, maybe the destroyer made a turn to port to increase clearance of the container ship which was going to pass close aboard on the starboard side but then the container ship incorrectly turned to starboard right into the destroyer.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

So is this going to be written off as an accident or is someone gonna be charged for the deaths.

In my opinion there is no such thing as an, "accident."  Someone made a mistake, or was negligent.  Whether someone will be found responsible remains to be seen.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This is unbelievable incompetence. With all the advanced equipment the US Navy destroyer was equipped with, they couldn't avoid this collision? There is no excuse for this.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Maritime rules suggest vessels are supposed to give way to ships on their starboard – Americans being “special” again.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

One has to wonder why the container ship did a U-Turn and headed towards the American Destroyer ?

I hope that the Crew are held in Japan, pending investigation.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

From looking at the tracking map, the container ship turned west following the collision with the USS Fitzgerald.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@zichi do you have a link for that tracking map?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Warning incoming not sure what it is commander extremely big .

Take all evasive action . Yes sir full ahead.

We will try to out run it dam its big

Well check the radar again ,yes sir i did..

Sh it now has Ran into us and looks like going straight over us must some supper new weapon

Captain ,

Get t ready to fire all missiles to the north.

Why captain

Whats in the north nothing on radar.

Want to be a Physic or an American Sailor Boy .

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

What happened to the powerful war machine of US – USS Fitzgerald – is very sad and unfortunate indeed, heartfelt condolences to families of those soldiers who lost their lives in the incident, but such accidents only reaffirms the reality that however powerful, strong and modern a war machine such as this one may be, they are all vulnerable to unexpected calamities such as this one, especially in a scenario where more and more countries have acquired all sorts of weapons in the latter half of last century and they continue to do so in the current century. What is in extreme danger of causing massive destruction across the world however is accumulation of nuclear arsenals in the hands of many countries, especially when they fall into the hands of terrorists who are having an upper hand in many countries, notably terrorist state Pakistan! Japan is the only country so far placed in an ideal position to reflect on such a disaster! The world is watching what the so-called super powers can or will do to avoid in the days and years ahead such a destructive disaster which will be several times deadlier than what Japan faced in 1945! One thing is certain though, the strength of no country can be underestimated today - North Korea is one such impoverished nation which can trigger at any time a single spark leading to an instant prairie fire that will spread across the world in unseen proportions and engulfing and burning alive billions of people if not the entire human race! In fact the question is, isn’t the human race already glaring at a gloomy future and is engulfed by a strong feeling of emptiness? Readers of JAPANTODAY are invited to express their opinions!

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

Northernlife

I already posted it but on further reflection I change my opinion and say the container ship made several course changes before hitting the warship, maybe trying to avoid it.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

never2lateToday06:39 pm JSTSo is this going to be written off as an accident or is someone gonna be charged for the deaths.

In my opinion there is no such thing as an, "accident." Someone made a mistake, or was negligent. Whether someone will be found responsible remains to be seen.

An Accident is when no parties involved had any intention of it occurring. It most certainly exists and is different from the cause, whether human error (negligence) or mechanical  (equipment failure). The cause is a legal issue yet to be determined.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Re: "tracking map"

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40317341

"The ACX Crystal appeared to make a U-turn before the collision, before rapidly adjusting course and setting off to Tokyo "

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The containership's course was shown in the BBC article I posted yesterday. It did a U-turn, and then after a while it did another U-turn, and continued on its way. There is no indication on the map of the point where the two ships came together, but in the article above there is a one-hour discrepancy.

Quote: "The U.S. Navy said the collision happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time, while the Japanese Coast Guard said it was 1:30 a.m. local time."

One of the questions will surely be be whether the initial collision actually caused the container ship's first change of course, or if a sudden change of course by the larger ship led to the collision.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

To see tracking map, go to MarineTraffic.com, create free registration, search vessel ACX Crystal, select past track.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks for the tracking maps.It is a big strange for a container ship to just do u turns like that.Seems to be something more to the whole thing that is been let out.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

US commander is in trouble. Very long time I do not navigate but I remember perfectly well the navigation rules. There is a simple navigation rule when two ships are face-to-face: "Show your red". Starboard is the right side of the vessel when facing the bow. Port is the left side. Starboard light is green and Port light is red. Then this rhyme applies:

If to your starboard Red appear It is your duty to keep clear.

Green to Green or Red to Red In perfect safety go ahead.

But when both lights you see ahead "Port your helm" (or starboard your wheel)

And show your Red.

Of course they will argue as Americans are always right, but rules are rules.

"Sorry boss, you're on Davy's grip".

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

All I say is I'm sad for the loss of these sailor's lives. I've been where they were.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Isn't this destroyer claiming to protect Japan from N Korean short range BM shooting?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

It is a big strange for a container ship to just do u turns like that.Seems to be something more to the whole thing that is been let out.


I agree. Was it even being driven or on autopilot ? There could have been hacking involved as well.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As for these rules about giving way, it is not that simple. It’s not as black and white as an intersection with red and green lights, it is more sort of a guidance. In real life, both vessels are supposed and required to keep a safe distance, even if one of the two ships has this so called right of way. It gets tricky when one or both ships deviate from such a guidance rule. If one or both of these two vessels didn’t suffer some mechanical failure or other emergency, both ships are, to a degree at least I suppose, at fault.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

These seven US sailors lost their lives in defense of Japan. Shame on anyone who tries to use this tragic event as a means to attack the US. Every single day they are out there putting their lives on the line for your freedom. God bless the families of those who lost loved ones and God bless the US Navy.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The captains cabin is in the part of the damaged ship which was totally destroyed and he was badly hurt and air lifted off so he must have been sleeping at the time.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It must be USS Fitzgerald's Captain had miscalculated both ships speed if he has noticed the ACX Crystal was coming to his ship (starboard side) passage. Captain may think the USS Fitzgerald can pass through but unfortunately there were not enough times and the accident was happened. He tried to pass through his ship rather than maneuvering his ship away from ACX Crystal's path. Otherwise, visibility must be very poor condition at that times and either of ship’s captains didn’t see each other and so too late for maneuvering for both ship.  

The USS Fitzgerald's starboard side was severely damage but ACX Crystal's port bow was relatively light damaged. It seems to be ACX Crystal's Captain must be tried to reverse his ship away from USS Fitzgerald when he saw it was on his ship track but it too late. Anyway, we have to wait until investigation was finished. R.I.P for those sailors who have lost lives in accident.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@ akoppa June 1811:15 pm JST

You wrote: " There is a simple navigation rule when two ships are face-to-face ".

Do we actually know they were closing "face-to-face" ?

Could the ACX Crystal have been overtaking the USS Fitzgerald ?

Does the photography clearly show direction of impact?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I already said my peace of the those lost and the strange occurance of the accident in other articles before this, but...

[The Fitzgerald is salvageable, he said, but repairs will likely take months. "Hopefully less than a year. You will see the USS Fitzgerald back," Aucoin said.]

why would it take so long to fix!? Minus getting it back to a place where it can be repaired that is of course. I mean we have the man power, the materials, so why wait so long?

Same with American roads! We wait till the worst times to work on the road, during rush hours no less, closing all but one or two lanes on a busy highway and take our time for weeks or months even. I have seen side roads worked on for much longer. I understand limitations of things having to dry, but there really is no excuse. Just get it done!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

How about we all wait on the accident investigation. Most people on here, I would speculate, are not Sailors or seafarers.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It would be interesting to know whether any of the people in control of the containership came from areas of the Philippines where Islamic terrorism occurs and where the US military is assisting Filipino authorities - Mindanao for example. This might shed light on whether the collision was caused intentionally.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It would be quite hard for the huge Philippine ship to intentionally ram the boat Rational Reader. The Destroyer is by far the faster, more maneuverable ship. It also has extremely advanced sensors and radar.

This looks more like someone was asleep at the wheel completely, substance abuse, or maybe even a whole group who slacked off at the wrong time.

Whatever it is, something is amiss.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hopefully they identify the cause of this crash ASAP. One can only imagine the sorts of consequences that could arise from a collision like this between 2 military vessels in say the SC Sea

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The destroyer had sophisticated equipment and was small and maneuverable. They could easily have gotten out of the way. This is incompetence, pure and simple. It doesn't matter whether they were there in the "defense of Japan" or for "Glory" or to "make the world safe for Democracy." They screwed up. The person who should have been on watch killed seven of his crew. It's a harsh reality.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The destroyer had sophisticated equipment and was small and maneuverable.

It may be smaller and more maneurverable than the container ship, but those terms are relative. A ship the size of a destroyer still takes quite a distance to make a turn. It is like comparing a dumptruck and a semi, yeah the dumptruck is smaller and has a smaller turning radius, but the dumptruck is still big and cumbersome compared to a sports car.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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