US Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan, 7 sailors missing

US Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off JapanReuters

At least three crew members are injured and seven reported missing after a US Navy guided-missile destroyer crashed off the Japanese waters on Saturday (17 June). USS Fitzgerald, the Arleigh Burke-class warship, collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal some 56 nautical miles (103km) southwest of Yokosuka.

The incident, said to be a rare one on the busy waterway, took place at about 2.30am local time (18.30 BST on Friday).

The ship's commanding officer Bryce Benson was one among the three injured, who were airlifted to a naval hospital. A statement from the US 7<sup>thFleet said he was in stable condition.

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Two other crew members are being treated for lacerations and bruises.

Japan's coast guard confirmed the collision on Saturday, and said the ship was initially experiencing some flooding.

However, the US by mid-afternoon local time on Saturday said the flooding on board the destroyer was under control and the destroyer was not in any danger of sinking.

The US Navy destroyer and the Japanese Coast Guard are searching for seven missing sailors, while the relatives of the crew have taken to social media, requesting information on them.

Aerial footage showed the destroyer had a large dent in its starboard (or right) side above and below the waterline.

The Navy said the Fitzgerald was now heading back to Yokosuka while operating under its own power at three knots but "her propulsion is limited". It is not clear where the destroyer was heading at the time of the collision.

The 222m (730ft) long merchant ship, which was three times that of the US destroyer and weighed just under 30,000 tonnes, sustained lighter damage to the port bow, Japan's national broadcaster NHK reported. It has now reached Tokyo.

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Japan's Coast Guard also said that none of the 20 crew members aboard the ACX Crystal were injured. The vessel was travelling between the Japanese cities of Nagoya and Tokyo.

A Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, damaged by colliding with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, is seen off Izu Oshima island, JapanKyodo/via Reuters

Spokesman for the US Navy 7<sup>th fleet said it was unclear how the collision happened and that they were investigating the incident.

However, marine traffic records showed that the container ship suddenly veered off its course and took a U-turn about 25 minutes before the collision. It is not known why it changed its direction, BBC reported.

ACX Crystal was reported to be travelling at 14.6 knots (27km/h) at the time of the collision.

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The waterways off Japan are reported to be a busy channel with commercial ships sailing to and from Tokyo and Yokohama bays.

The Navy had dispatched two of its tugboats and the USS Dewey warship to provide assistance to Fitzgerald.

The incident is reported to raise question about why the crew onboard the USS Fitzgerald failed to avoid collision, given that the destroyer is considered the most advanced warships in the world, the BBC noted.

US Navy operations chief Admiral John Richardson tweeted: "As more information is learnt we will be sure to share it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public. [...]

"All our thoughts and concerns are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families."

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