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Bodies of missing US Navy sailors found

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed into the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017
Image: The USS Fitzgerald limped into port in Japan after the collision

The bodies of a number of US sailors who were missing after their warship collided with a container vessel have been found in the destroyer’s flooded compartments.

The USS Fitzgerald suffered major damage in the crash with the much larger Philippine-flagged merchant ship off the coast of Japan on Saturday.

Seven sailors were listed as missing following the collision, but it is unclear if all had been found by navy divers.

The US Navy has declined to say how many had been recovered.

The bodies were being transferred to a US naval hospital where they will be identified.

Japanese media said all seven sailors were found dead.

A Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, damaged by colliding with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. Pic: Kyodo
Image: The Philippine-flagged merchant vessel involved in the collision. Pic: Kyodo

The US 7th Fleet said in a statement: “As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments.

“They are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified.

“The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time.

“The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made.”

The crash happened at 2.30am Saturday local time, around 56 miles southwest of the city of Yokosuka, which is home to a US naval base.

Many of the 285 sailors would have been asleep on board at the time.

A sailor is rescued from the USS Fitzgerald after it collided with a container ship near Japan
Image: Three sailors were rescued from the US Navy destroyer

Three casualties were airlifted off the warship following the collision, including the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson, who suffered a head injury. He was reported to be in a stable condition.

Then two others injured were treated for cuts and bruises.

The listing Fitzgerald returned to Yokosuka, which lies south of Tokyo, on Saturday evening.

It suffered a massive gash beneath its waterline and came close to sinking or foundering, according to the US Navy.

Commander of the Seventh Fleet Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said only frantic damage control efforts had saved the ship.

It is not clear what caused the collision but the coastguard has said the area had been particularly busy with sea traffic at the time.

The 29,000 tonne container ship, ASX Crystal, dwarfed the 8,000 tonne guided missile destroyer.

Nippon Yusen KK, which chartered the merchant vessel, said it would “cooperate fully” with the investigation into the crash.

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