- The Japanese coast guard is leading the search for seven sailors missing after their U.S. destroyer collided with a container ship early Saturday.
- The USS Fitzgerald was damaged both above the waterline by the containership’s bow and below the waterline by the bulbous bow..
- A search for debris will be conducted by the US Navy.
- The ship was last seen near the pier, flanked by the two tugboats that helped her limp home after collision off the eastern coast of Japan.
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), aided by tug boats, returned to Yokosuka at 6:15 p.m. local time this evening.
Approximately 16 hours earlier, the US Navy warship was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Seven of Fitzgerald’s crew remain missing and three remain injured.
Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, along with many family members, were on the pier when the ship arrived.
“This has been a difficult day,” Aucoin said. “I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates.”
“I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald Sailors who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 70.
The collision devastated the 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, which damage control teams quickly began dewatering. Though the ship is back in Yokosuka it remains uncertain as to how long it will take to gain access to the spaces in order to search inside the vessel for the missing sailors.
Once the ship arrived in Yokosuka, divers began inspecting the damage and developing a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces.
Three patients were medically evacuated from the ship. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka by an American helicopter. All three Sailors are awake and will remain under observation at the hospital until further notice.
Shortly after the collision the U.S. Navy notified the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and asked for assistance. The Japanese Coast Guard were the first on scene and continues to be lead for search and rescue efforts according to the Navy. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri, and JS Enshu have joined the JCG ships Izanami and Kano and USS Dewey (DDG 105).
American P-8 Poseidon aircraft, Helicopters and P-3 Orion aircraft are currently assisting the Japanese Coast Guard in the search.
Names of the missing Sailors are being withheld until the families have been notified.