UPDATE: 6/20 10:00 am. The seven sailors who died on board the USS Fitzgerald Saturday have been found in flooded crew compartments on the ship. The accident occurred when the Fitzgerald was struck by a container ship off the coast of Japan. The identities of the sailors have now been released.
[Scroll Down for Video]
“This loss is something we all feel,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, said at a news conference at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan Sunday. “We have found a number of the remains […] of our missing shipmates, and our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those shipmates.”
The Navy has released the names of the deceased.
Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego
Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland
Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
The sailors were originally feared to have been thrown overboard in the accident, but they were trapped inside berthings that had been flooded when the bow of the container ship tore a large hole in the Fitzgerald below the water line. Those rooms were then sealed off to prevent flooding of the entire ship.
“There was a big puncture, a big gash underneath the waterline,” Aucoin said. The decision to seal off those areas was made quickly. “There wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea.”
The Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was asleep in his cabin, which was completely destroyed. It is unclear how he was rescued, but he was airlifted to a hospital in Japan and is recovering.
UPDATE: 6/19 9:00 am. The US Navy has confirmed that the 7 missing sailors from the USS Fitzgerald were found in flooded compartments on board the ship. After the collision with the Japanese cargo ship, the Fitzgerald’s crew sealed off flooding compartments, including crew quarters, trapping the sailors inside ship.
The USS Fitzgerald was involved in a collision south of Japan early Saturday Morning. It remains unclear how the Navy ship hit the cargo ship. The Captain of the Fitzgerald was one of those injured in the accident, and he was airlifted to a U.S. hospital in Japan.
[Scroll Down for Video]
The missing sailors found in mangled wreckage on the ship were in two crew berthings that had been flooded and sealed off. One engineering compartment was flooded, too.
Rescue crews from the U.S. Navy and from Japan combed the waters for the injured and missing sailors, but the collision occurred just after 2:30 a.m. local time, so their efforts were hampered by darkness.
Bryce Benson, the Fitzgerald’s Captain, was “transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and is reportedly in stable condition,” a press statement from the US 7th Fleet acknowledged. Two other crew members were airlifted with the Captain.
The other ship suffered far less damage. The 29,000 ton container vessel, The ACX Crystal, is a much larger boat. Empty, it outweighs the Fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer. Loaded, the ACX would be a formidable obstacle.
The USS Fitzgerald weighs in at just 9,000 tons, and cost $1.5billion to build.
“It was a was real fight by crew to keep the ship afloat. Our concerns now are with ship mates; seven sailors missing and 2 evacuees. When the news came we were all focused on the safety of or ship and the crew,” a naval spokesman in Yokosuka told The Daily Mail. “We at the base are still reeling from the events.”
Though no official blame has been placed, authorities tracking both ships say that the ACX made an erratic and high-speed u-turn and set a course back to Japan. Shortly after, it struck the Fitzgerald.
The Fitzgerald is now headed back to port in Yokosuka. The ship is under its own power, but moving slowly. She is being accompanied by the USS Dewey, and tug boats, and watched carefully by rescue aircraft.
The damage to the Fitzgerald is considered catastrophic, as much of it occurred below the waterline.