This is truly tragic. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the deceased heroes.
The search for seven missing U.S. Navy sailors was called off Sunday after several bodies were recovered from the flooded compartments of the destroyer.
Commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet told the grim news to reporters at a Navy base in Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo. Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin wouldn’t say how many bodies were found but said the identities of the sailors would be released following notification of the families.
The bodies were found in previously flooded compartments, including sleeping quarters.
Searchers gained access to these spaces that were damaged during the collision and brought the remains to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they are to be identified, the Navy said in a statement.
The USS Fitzgerald was back at its home port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo by sunset Saturday. The Philippine-flagged container ship was berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where officials were questioning crew members about the cause of the nighttime crash.
After stabilizing the USS Fitzgerald, the destroyer USS Dewey had joined other American and Japanese vessels and aircraft in the search for the missing sailors.
The U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement that the crash damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the pre-dawn crash.
Water was being pumped out of flooded areas and it was unclear how long it would take to get into the crushed mid-right side of the ship once it was at the pier in Yokosuka, the statement said.
Nippon Yusen, the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship, said in a statement it is collaborating with the ship owner and fully cooperating with the investigation by the coast guard. The 29,060-ton ship is Philippine-flagged and all the crew are Filipinos.
The USS Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted early Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition with a head injury, the Navy said. Two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated. It was unclear how many others may have been hurt.