The Navy called off the search Sunday for seven sailors missing from the USS Fitzgerald after several bodies were found in the flooded destroyer, which had collided with a container ship off Japan.
The destroyer has a crew of about 300 and most were asleep when the ship collided early Saturday with the Philippine-flagged container ship ACX Crystal that was more than three times larger. Navy divers found “a number of” bodies in the ship Sunday, a day after tugs dragged the ship to the 7th Fleet’s home base in Yokosuka, Japan.
The Navy didn’t release the number of bodies found, pending notification of next of kin. About 200 sailors were aboard the ship at the time of the collision.
“The damage was significant, this was not a small collision,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a sympathy message Sunday to President Donald Trump.
“We are struck by deep sorrow,” expressing condolences and sympathy “straight from my heart” to the victims and the injured, Abe said in the statement. “I express my heartfelt solidarity to America at this difficult time,” praising U.S. servicemen in Japan under the allies’ bilateral security pact.
Trump posted a message Saturday on Twitter expressing his concern for the sailors and his appreciation to Japan for its assistance.
The Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted from the ship’s deck with a head injury. Two other crew members who suffered cuts and bruises were also flown out.
“You can’t see most of the damage, the damage is mostly underneath the waterline, and it’s a large gash near the keel of the ship,” Aucoin said. “So the water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea. And as you can see now the ship is still listing, so they had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic.”
Relatives of the sailors were awaiting word about their loved ones. Rita Schrimsher, of Athens, Ala., told the Associated Press that she was relieved after speaking with her 23-year-old grandson Jackson Schrimsher.
“It could have been worse so we’re grateful,” she said.
Aucoin wouldn’t speculate on the cause of the collision in an area busy with sea traffic. He said he would order a full and thorough investigation.
Contributing: The Associated Press