US Navy vessel collided with a 29,000-on container ship on Saturday off the coast of Japan. Seven sailors were stuck in the lower compartments, below the water line, which flooded and killed the stranded sailors.
DestOfficials say that the bodies were found after the destroyer had returned to the US navy base in Japan, Sunday morning.
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, told reporters, “This loss is something we all feel,” he continued, standing alongside the ship at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan Sunday.
“We have found a number of the remains … of our missing shipmates, and our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those shipmates,” he said.
The deceased’s names were released on Sunday;
— Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
— Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego
— Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
— Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
— Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
— Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland
— Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
On his statement on Sunday, the admiral emphasized that the losses could have been worse.
“There was a big puncture, a big gash underneath the waterline” along the bottom of the ship, Aucoin said.
The water flow into compartments that were berthing areas for 116 of the ship’s crew was “tremendous”, he said, adding that they had no chance, “there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea.”
The admiral continues and says that the cabin of the Fitzgerald’s captain, Commander Bryce Benson, was destroyed and that the commander was “lucky to be alive.”
Benson is now being treated at the naval hospital at Yokosuka, Japan. He was flown off the sinking ship via helicopter after the incident. There were another two sailors medevaced as well.
Due to “heroic efforts” from the crew, the admiral said that they could have all died. “The crew had to fight very hard to keep the ship afloat,” he said.
It’s expected that there will be a number of investigations into the accident, not only by the US authorities but as well as the Japanese and Philippine authorities. The ship was registered in the Philippines and the incident took place in Japanese waters.
Even though the 22-year-old ship was badly damaged, Admiral Aucoin expects the ship to rejoin the fleet soon.
“The ship is salvageable,” he said. “It will take months, hopefully under a year” for repairs. “You will see the USS Fitzgerald back as one of our warships,” Aucoin said.
No one was hurt on the merchant ship, ACX Crystal, and no oil was spilt.
The shipping firm have confirmed that all parties, NYK and the ship owners, will be cooperating with Japanese authorities in the investigation.
“Our thoughts and deep concerns go out to all those directly affected,” NYK said.