Several sailors who went missing in Saturday’s collision between the American destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a merchant ship off the coast of Japan have been found dead in the wreckage of the damaged part of the destroyer, the US 7th Fleet has confirmed.
In total, seven US sailors were declared missing in the incident and three more were injured, including the commander of the ship, Bryce Benson.
The search for the seven missing sailors has ended, but the number of bodies found has not been confirmed as of yet, according to a US Navy commander cited by AP.
“As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments,” the US 7th Fleet said in a statement on its website, not specifying how many of the bodies have been found.
#FITZ UPDATE: Divers were able to access the space and found a number of bodies.
— 7th Fleet (@US7thFleet) June 18, 2017
The bodies are being transferred to the US Naval Hospital Yokosuka for identification. The collision took place some 56 nautical miles southwest of the city of Yokosuka.
The USS Fitzgerald collided with the container vessel, which was sailing under the Philippines flag, at 2:30am local time [17.30 GMT]. Following the crash, the US guided missile destroyer suffered “significant damage” above and below the waterline and was partially flooded. The details of the investigation launched by the Navy have not been disclosed. Speaking on the course of the probe, the spokesman for the US 7th Fleet said that “any legal issues can be addressed” only after it is completed.
On Saturday the ship, aided by the Japanese Coast Guard, sailed back into Yokosuka.