Seven Missing Sailors Found Dead in Flooded USS Fitzgerald

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UPDATE: 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.

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The USS Fitzgerald was involved in a collision south of Japan on Friday. 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.

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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.