Mysterious ship crash off Japan leaves 7 US sailors missing


Footage from the Japanese TV network NHK showed heavy damage to the middle right side of the Navy ship and a person in a stretcher being lifted to a helicopter.

(Japan's Defense Ministry via AP).

USS Fitzgerald arrives at the US naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo.

Although the ship had listed right, it was deemed not to be in danger of sinking and later made its own way back to the naval base, flanked by the USS Dewey destroyer and two tugboats.

A search-and-rescue operation continued late into the night to locate seven missing United States Navy sailors, after an American warship collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo vessel thrice its size early yesterday.

Meanwhile, search and rescue efforts by USA and Japanese aircraft and boats were underway in the area where the vessels collided.

Coast Guard spokesman Yuichi Sugino said coast guard patrol ships and aircraft were headed to the scene but said that no further details were immediately available.

Tug boats pulled the ship back to the Yokusuka Naval Base, home of the 7th Fleet and located south of Tokyo, by sunset Saturday (local time in Japan), with its remaining crew members lined up on deck.

Meanwhile, the container ship that had crashed into it was docked at Tokyo's Oi wharf, where crew members were questioned about the crash, w which had occurred shortly before dawn.

USA 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin said the search was continuing in a statement released almost 24 hours after the USS Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the much larger Philippine-flagged merchant vessel 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka.

Two other sailors were also evacuated and treated for lacerations and bruises, while crew were still assessing the other injured.

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors", Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.

More than 200 sailors were on the USS Fitzgerald at the time of the collision.

"While those efforts helped stabilise the flooding, it remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces once the ship is pier side in Yokosuka", the US Navy added.

"This has been a hard day", said Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet.

"All of our thoughts and concerns are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families".

"This has been a hard day", Aucoin said, adding that the search for missing shipmates would continue now that the vessel was back in Yokosuka.

The ship's captain, Cmdr.

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.

Two others were hurt along with the USS Fitzgerald's commanding officer Bryce Benson, the military said in a statement.

The large size of the container ship - it's nearly three times as heavy as the Fitzgerald - may have left the smaller US destroyer vulnerable in the collision, said Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center and a Hawaii Pacific University professor.

Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ASX Crystal, said in a statement it would "cooperate fully" with the Coast Guard's investigation of the incident. "So how such a ship was taken unaware and rammed by a merchant ship is very freaky", Penn said.

President Donald Trump has thanked Japan for its help in the search for seven Navy sailors who are missing after their USA destroyer collided with a container ship.

The U.S. Navy says the USS Fitzgerald suffered damage below the water line on its starboard side after it collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant ship.

Japanese officials said they were investigating what happened in the moments before the crash, with an eye toward the crew of the Crystal.

Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though Yutaka Saito of the coast guard said the area is particularly busy with sea traffic.

USA and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels continued the search after the Fitzgerald sailed into the port of Yokosuka south of Tokyo. U.S. Navy personnel set up support and counseling services to help families as they sought updates on crew members.