Missing sailors' bodies found in damaged USS Fitzgerald

Sea and air search ends at site of collision off Japan's coast between USS Fitzgerald and a merchant ship on Saturday.

    Missing sailors' bodies found in damaged USS Fitzgerald
    The US navy said it was unclear how the collision off the coast of Japan occurred [Kyodo/Reuters]

    The bodies of several US sailors, who were missing after a US navy ship collided with a container vessel in the busy sea off the coast of Japan, have been found inside the damaged ship, according to the US Navy.

    The collision happened early on Saturday when most of the 200 crew on board the USS Fitzgerald were asleep.

    Seven US crew members were reported missing following the incident, which occurred south of Tokyo Bay.

    Yoko Kato, a spokeswoman for the US Navy, said divers had gained access to spaces that were damaged during the collision and found a number of bodies.

    Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, said on Sunday the navy had ended its search and rescue efforts for the missing sailors.

    He would not say how many bodies had been found, pending notification of the sailors' family members. 

    The Japanese coastguard said none of the 20 crew members on board the ACX Crystal, a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel that collided with the Fitzgerald, were wounded.

    The Navy said that the families of those who were found were being notified and provided the support they need during "this difficult time."

    The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made.

    The collision occurred when most of the 200 crew members were asleep [Kyodo/Reuters]

    At least three other crew members, including the captain, were injured in the crash, which damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room and exposed a mangled mid-right side of the ship.

    It was not clear how extensive the damage was below the water line.

    "This has been a difficult day," Aucoin said before the announcement that the bodies had been found.

    "I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. 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."

    'Very bizarre' 

    It was unclear how the collision happened. "Once an investigation is complete, then any legal issues can be addressed," the US Navy said.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from Tokyo on Saturday, Michael Penn, a journalist with the Shingetsu news agency said it was "very bizarre" that such an incident had happened.

    "The US navy ship is an Aegis destroyer, which has one of the most sophisticated radars in existence. So how such a ship was taken unaware and rammed by a merchant ship is very bizarre," Penn said.

    The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan's two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

    Japan's public broadcaster NHK showed aerial footage of the destroyer, which had a large dent in its right, or starboard, side. Images broadcast by NHK showed it had been struck next to its Aegis radar arrays behind its vertical missile launch tubes.

    In May, the US Navy's USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel, but both ships were able to operate under their own power.

    At least three Fitzgerald crew members, including the captain, were injured [Handout/US Navy/Reuters]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.