7 missing, 2 hurt after US Navy destroyer collides with PH-flagged ship
TOKYO – Seven crew on a US destroyer were missing and their commander injured Saturday after their Navy destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan, with the badly damaged US vessel partially flooded.
Two others were hurt along with the USS Fitzgerald’s commanding officer Bryce Benson, the military said in a statement.
“Two sailors, in addition to the commanding officer, have been medically evacuated from USS Fitzgerald to US Naval Hospital Yokosuka for lacerations and bruises,” it added.
The Japan coast guard said it received an emergency call from a Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal around 2:20 a.m. (1720 GMT Friday) that it had collided with the USS Fitzgerald southwest of Yokusuka, Japan.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday said it was coordinating with US and Japan regarding the collision.
“The Department is closely monitoring reports of the collision that occurred early this morning between a PHL-flagged merchant vessel and US naval vessel near Yokosuka, Japan,” the DFA said in a statement.
The damage of the right side of the USS Fitzgerald is seen off Shimoda, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan, after the Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship, Saturday, June 17, 2017. The U.S. Navy says the USS Fitzgerald suffered damage below the water line on its starboard side after it collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant ship. (Iori Sagisawa/Kyodo News via AP)
It said it was still verifying if any Filipino nationals were involved in the incident.
“We are coordinating with the relevant authorities including the governments of the US and Japan to determine exactly the extent of damage and the number of casualties, especially if any Filipino nationals are involved,” the DFA said.
Aerial television footage showed an apparent victim on a stretcher and a Japanese rescuer being pulled up to a helicopter hovering over the huge destroyer.
The Japanese coastguard has sent five vessels, two planes and a team of specially trained rescue personnel to the area, a spokesman said.
The 154-metre (505-foot) Fitzgerald is based in Yokosuka on the Izu peninsula and operates in the Pacific and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
Relatives of crew members were awaiting news of their loved ones.
“Of course we’re nervous and scared and just praying,” Rita Schrimsher said by telephone from Athens, Alabama.
Her grandson Jackson Schrimsher is a 23-year-old sailor aboard the Fitzgerald. She said she last communicated with him via Facebook messenger on Wednesday.
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.
“All of our thoughts and concerns are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families.”
Coastguard official Takershi Aikawa said the ship was partially flooded because of damage. So far no damage or injuries have been reported on the container ship, he said. NHK reported that the merchant ship had scratches on the left side of its bow.
The Philippine ship is 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet) long, the coast guard said.
The Navy said that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles (103 kilometers) southwest of Yokosuka, a city south of Tokyo that is home to the 7th Fleet.
The fleet said the USS Dewey, medical assistance and two Navy tugs were being dispatched as quickly as possible and that naval aircraft were being readied to help.
A US defence official told Agence France-Presse that “sailors are de-watering” flooded areas of the ship.
The Fitzgerald was still under its own power “although her propulsion was limited”, the Navy said.
The Navy’s Pacific Fleet said the extent of injuries and damage to the Fitzgerald are being determined, and the incident is under investigation.
Twenty crew members were aboard the container and no one was injured, another Japanese coastguard spokesman said, adding that the vessel was separately sailing back to a Tokyo port.
The ship carries a Philippine flag but is listed as owned by Japanese shipping giant NYK Line.