Mysterious ship crash off Japan leaves 7 US sailors missing

The damaged USS Fitzgerald is seen near the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka Japan

Seven US sailors were missing and a skipper injured after their Navy destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan early Saturday, with the badly damaged US vessel partially flooded.

Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of USA 7th Fleet, along with many family members, were present when the ship arrived, reports the Navy.

United States destroyer collides with Philippine-flagged vessel south of Tokyo Bay in Japan in rare incident on busy waterway.

The Japanese coastguard said the Fitzgerald was experiencing some flooding but was not in danger of sinking, while the merchant vessel was able to sail under its own power.

US 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin said the search was continuing in a statement released almost 24 hours after the USS Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the much larger Philippine-flagged merchant vessel 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka.

The other two injured were transferred to the hospital to treat lacerations and bruises, it said.

Twenty crew members were aboard the container and none was injured, a Japanese coast guard spokesman confirmed, adding that the vessel was sailing back to a Tokyo port.

The names of missing sailors were being withheld until families had been notified, it said.

The accident happened 56 nautical miles (104 kilometers) southwest of Yokosuka, the navy said.

Naval commanders praised the sailors for containing flooding caused by the collision, stabilizing the ship and sailing it back to port at the USA naval base in Yokosuka, where divers inspected its damage and developed a plan for repairs and inspection. The ship arrived at Tokyo Bay later in the day.

The US P-8 Poseidon aircraft is working with two Japanese Navy helicopters and the P-3 Orion aircraft in an aerial search of the area.

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors", Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.

"It remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces once the ship is pier side... to methodically continue the search for the missing". "All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families".

According to one expert, there's a good chance the collision was caused by the errors of human crew, despite the presence of onboard systems meant to prevent deadly collisions at sea.

"It could have been worse, so we're grateful", she said.

"Just heard the sweetest voice and saw a wonderful face".

She says she spoke on Facetime with her 23-year-old grandson Jackson Schrimsher.

None of the 20 Filipino crewmembers were injured, and the ship was not leaking oil, Nippon Yusen said.

In a statement released on Twitter, US chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson said: "As more information is learned we will be sure to share it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public".

Relatives of crew members of a U.S. Navy ship that collided with a merchant ship off Japan are awaiting news of their loved ones.

The crash occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, and Japan's coast guard was reportedly on the scene to assist conducting medical evacuations. A USA defense official said there is flooding in three compartments of the Fitzgerald. The fleet said the number of injuries is still being determined.

The images showed what appeared to be significant damage on the deck and to part of the radar.

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