Aircraft, vessels search for missing US sailors


A view of a damaged area of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald as it returns to Yokosuka Naval Base after its collision with the container ship ACX Crystal Saturday off the coast of Yokosuka, Japan.

Damage is seen on the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald off the Shimoda coast, after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship, on June 17, 2017. The USS Fitzgerald is an Aegis guided missile destroyer, and is based in an area where many fear that World War 3 could begin.

The fleet's commander, Vice Admiral Joseph P Aucoin, was on the pier together with many family members when the ship arrived, it said.

Planes, boats and helicopters scoured the seas off Japan's Pacific coast in a bid to find the crew who disappeared in the predawn accident, which also left the USS Fitzgerald's skipper injured. "Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates". Names of the missing sailors are being withheld until the families have been notified.

"Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families", President Donald Trump said on Twitter.

"There are seven sailors unaccounted for; the ship and the Japanese Coast Guard continues to search for them".

Naval commanders praised the sailors for containing flooding caused by the collision, stabilizing the ship and sailing it back to port at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, where divers inspected its damage and developed a plan for repairs and inspection. Bryce Benson, was airlifted after the crash to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and remains in in stable condition with a head injury, according to the Navy. The machine and radio rooms would have been manned whilst the Fitzgerald was at sea, so it is entirely possible that the missing crew are trapped within the mangled parts of the ship.

The Navy said that the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, a city south of Tokyo that is home to a U.S. Naval base.

It was not clear what caused the collision, which the U.S. Navy said occurred at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT). "The ship is being ported back to Tokyo Bay and all crew have been instructed to remain on board pending their interview by Japanese authorities", the DFA said, referring to ACX Crystal.

Marine traffic records suggest the ACX Crystal made a sudden U-turn roughly 25 minutes before the collision with the USS Fitzgerald.

Two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated.

The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tonnes and is 730ft long, the coast guard said, much larger than the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer.

Rita Schrimsher of Athens, Alabama, tweeted: "Just heard the sweetest voice and saw a wonderful face".

Live footage shot from a helicopter Saturday morning by Japanese broadcaster NHK showed heavy damage to the mid-right side of the Navy ship, which appeared to be stationary in the water.

She says she spoke on Facetime with her 23-year-old grandson Jackson Schrimsher.

"It could have been worse, so we're grateful", she said by phone. US Navy personnel set up support and counselling services to help families as they sought updates on crew members.