The Navy released the name of the seven sailors killed aboard the USS Fitzgerald after their 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.
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.
Late Sunday the Navy released a list of names of the deceased:
• Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Va.
• Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego
• Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T. Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Conn.
• Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
• Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Calif.
• Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Md.
• Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a sympathy message Sunday to President 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.
Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families. Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance. https://t.co/d1l5ctjNyB— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 17, 2017
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.”
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.
Mia Sykes, the mother of a sailor who survived the direct hit to his sleeping berth, told AP that her son kept diving to try to save his shipmates until the flooded berth began running out of air pockets. Other sailors, believing the ship was under attack, hurried to man the guns.
Sykes said her 19-year-old son, Brayden Harden, told her he was knocked out of his bunk by the impact. Water immediately began filling the berth. Sykes says her son said the men sleeping on bunks above and below him died, while three died in the berth above his.
“They did what they were trained to do,” said Sykes, who said she hopes her son can come home to be with family as he works through the accident. “You have to realize most of them are 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds living with guilt. But I told him, ‘There’s a reason you’re still here and make that count.’”
Vice Adm. 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: Greg Toppo, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press.