U.S. Navy searching for lost sailors off Japanese coast

Sailors lost in action after collision with container ship

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed into the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The United States and Japan are currently undertaking a search and resuce mission after seven American sailors went missing when a U.S. Navy destroyer crashed into a container ship off the Japanese coast. While the 20 members of the container ship’s crew were reported safe and sound, seven members of the USS Fitzgerald were missing when the damaged vessel returned to Yokosuka Naval Base, just south of Tokyo. According to footage obtained by Japanese news network NHK, the container ship only sustained minor damage to its bow, while the USS Fitzgerald suffered severe damage below the waterline, as water had to be pumped out of the Navy ship in the immediate aftermath of the collision. Three sailors remaining on the ship had to be taken to a naval hospital upon landing, including the vessel’s commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson. The officers were being treated for various lacerations and bruises. Divers are expected to inspect the damage from below and help in the devising of a repair plan.

The collision occurred off the Izu peninsula, and that is where searchers are currently focusing their attention on. The USS Dewey and two naval tugboats are among those deployed for the mission to find the missing sailors. Two Japanese coast guard ships are also helping with the investigation. It’s still unclear how fast both ships were traveling when the collision occurred, or even how the collision happened. “Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed,” a spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet said. It’s even being disputed when the accident happened, as the U.S. Navy said the accident happened at 2:30 AM, while the Japanese coast guard contends it happened an hour earlier. Officials have yet to publicly disclose the identities of those missing, at least until families of those affected are notified.

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