Seven US Navy Crew Unaccounted For After Collision In Japan
TOKYO: The United States and Japan have launched a major search operation to find seven missing US sailors today after their Navy destroyer collided with a container ship, crushing the side of the warship.
Aircraft, ships and helicopters swept the seas off the Pacific coast of Japan to find the crew that disappeared in the morning crash, which also left the captain of the USS Fitzgerald injured.
It was not clear where the missing sailors were when the collision occurred.
Several other crew members were injured and had to be transferred by helicopter to a hospital, including the commander of guided missile destroyer Bryce Benson.
Television antenna images showed that a person was on a stretcher and that a rescuer was taken to a helicopter that looks over the Fitzgerald, had returned part of the right hand.
“There are seven missing sailors, the ship and the Coast Guard of Japan are still looking,” said the Navy.
The collision between the container ship Fitzgerald and the Philippines ACX Crystal occurred around 2:30 (1730 GMT on Friday) off the coast of the Izu peninsula, southwest of Tokyo.
The area is a busy shipping route, which is a gateway to the main container ports in Yokohama and Tokyo.
“The volume of the ships is heavy in this area and there have already been accidents,” said Coast Guard chief Yutaka Saito, the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
NHK said it sends the massive container 222 meters (730 feet) marked a turn at the time of the crash, but its captain suggests otherwise.
“We were sailing in the same direction as the American destroyer and we found ourselves,” he told the Jiji Press news agency.
The Japan Coast Guard, which probed the incident, said it had sent a half-dozen ships, several aircraft and specially trained rescue personnel to the scene. Later they were joined by the country’s self-defense forces.
“We are all on the lookout for missing people … but we still have no clue as to where they might be,” a Coast Guard spokesman said, adding that the investigation could continue overnight.
Fitzgerald – which was commissioned in 1995 and deployed in the Iraq war in 2003 – is based in Yokosuka, which operates in the Pacific and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
The accident occurred 56 nautical miles (104 kilometers) southwest of Yokosuka, the navy said.
“My daughter is about to Fitzgerald,” a father wrote on the Facebook page of the seventh fleet.
“So worried, just to hear that she is the right one, thinking of all our sailors and their families !!”
US Naval Operations Chief Admiral John Richardson said in a statement: “As more information is learned, we will be sure to share it with the Fitzgerald family and, where appropriate, the public.