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Search For Seven Missing U.S. Sailors Ends After Bodies Found

  • RFE/RL

The USS Fitzgerald was damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel.

The search for seven U.S. sailors who were missing after their destroyer collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan has ended after "a number" of bodies were found, the U.S. Navy said on June 18.

"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," the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

It did not specify how many bodies had been found, but Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin later said the search for the missing had ended and no further details would be given until the families of the victims had been informed.

Their bodies had been transferred to the Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, where the Seventh Fleet is based, for identification, Aucoin told reporters on June 18.

The sailors were reported missing after the USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal in the early hours of June 17, sustaining what Aucoin said was a "big gash" below the waterline on the starboard side. There were 285 crew on board.

Two berthing rooms and the skipper's cabin were damaged, Aucoin said, adding that the captain, who was airlifted to hospital with a head injury, was "lucky to be alive."

Investigations were being launched into how the collision, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, took place, Aucoin said.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of the crew and what they did to save this ship," he added. "They prevented this ship from foundering or even sinking."

Aucoin also offered "heartfelt thanks to our Japanese allies" for coming to the ship's aid.

The ACX Crystal, which was carrying a crew of 20, was only "slightly damaged" in the crash, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, and no injuries were reported.

With reporting by dpa and Reuters
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