Seven missing after US destroyer, container ship collide off Japan

17 June 2017

Seven US Navy sailors are missing after their ship USS Fitzgerald collided with a container vessel off the coast of Japan. The ship's commanding officer and two others, who were injured in the collision were taken to hospital by helicopter.

Cmdr Bryce Benson was reported to be in stable condition, the Navy said. The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises, while other injured were being assessed aboard the ship, it said.

The US Navy destroyer collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship, more than three times its size, about 56 nautical miles (104km) south-west of Yokosuka off the eastern Japan early on Saturday - about 02:30 local time on Saturday (17:30 GMT Friday)..

The ship suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline, causing "significant damage" and flooding to two berthing spaces and other areas of the ship, the Navy said.

The flooding was later stabilised, but it was uncertain how long it would take to gain access to those spaces once the ship docked, to continue the search for the missing, it said.

The USS Fitzgerald sailed into port on Saturday evening but search and rescue efforts by US and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels were continuing for the seven missing sailors, the Navy said. Their names are being withheld until the families have been notified, it added.

Back in Yokosuka, divers will inspect the damage and develop a plan for repairs, the Navy said.

Yokosuka, a Japanese port city, is home to the US 7th Fleet, which comprises up to 80 submarines and ships, including the USS Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the merchant vessel some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, the Navy said.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on 13 May. 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 US 7th Fleet said.

 search domain-b