USS Fitzgerald: Massive search underway for 7 missing sailors after collision

The search continued Saturday for seven sailors missing after a Navy destroyer collided with a container ship four times its size off the coast of Japan.

Japan’s coast guard, which as taken the lead in the search, said the sailors were thought to have been thrown into the sea or possibly trapped inside the damaged section of the USS Fitzgerald, which was approaching its home port at the Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo.

Ships from the U.S. and Japan are taking part in the search. The names of the misssing are being withheld until the families are notified.

The U.S. destroyer, flanked by two tug boats and other support vessels, was listing to its right as it slowly approached the port. It was using its own limited propulsion after suffering significant damage on the right side below the water line and a U.S. defense official said there was flooding in three compartments.

Nippon Yusen, the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship, said in a statement it is collaborating with the ship owner and fully cooperating with the investigation by the coast guard. The 29,060-ton ship is Philippine-flagged and all the crew are Filipinos.

Japan’s Kyodo News service says the Japanese coast guard is investigating the incident with the U.S. Navy and plans to question the crew members of the ACX Crystal. The cause of the collision wasn’t immediately clear.

An Alabama woman says her grandson contacted her from the USS Fitzgerald to say he’s OK after a nighttime collision off Japan left seven crew members missing and three injured.

Rita Schrimsher of Athens, Alabama, tweeted: “Just heard the sweetest voice and saw a wonderful face. He’s okay. Thank you all for the prayers.”

She says she spoke on Facetime with her 23-year-old grandson Jackson Schrimsher. She says: “It could have been worse so we’re grateful.”

Two crew members, including the captain, have been evacuated from a Navy destroyer. The Navy said in a statement that Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the ship’s commanding officer, was evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, home base of the 7th Fleet. It says he was in stable condition.

Details on the second injured person being evacuated were not immediately available.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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