The search for sailors missing from the damaged destroyer USS Fitzgerald has been called off after some bodies were found in the crippled ship’s berthing compartments.
“We have found a number of our missing shipmates, but I’m not going to go onto the exact numbers,” announced U.S. Seventh fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin.
The Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged Japanese container ship in the dark on the early morning of June 17.
The U.S. destroyer was severely damaged, with the pilot house superstructure partially crushed and a large tear opened in the hull below the waterline.
The ship was in danger of foundering or sinking after the collision; the crew had to work desperately to keep the ship afloat. Eventually the ship was towed back to port by tugboats, listing hard to starboard.
Three sailors, including Commander Bryce Benson , had to be airlifted to a hospital immediately after the collision. Seven members of the ship’s 285-sailor complement were missing after the impact. The Navy mounted an intensive search at sea, which has been called off since the discovery of the bodies on the ship.
Vice Adm. Aucoin said that the Fitzgerald can be repaired.
“The ship is salvageable,” he stated.” It’s extensive though; it requires some significant repair, but you will see the USS Fitzgerald back as one of our warships here, but it will require some time.”
It has yet to be explained how the 505-foot, 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer and the 730-foot, 29,000-ton ACX Crystal container ship, both equipped with the latest detection and guidance systems, could have collided in the first place.
The collision happened about 56 miles from the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka where the Fitzgerald had recently departed.
The Fitzgerald was towed back to Yokosuka, arriving there on the night of June 17.