TOKYO — The bodies of “a number” of U.S. sailors who went missing after their destroyer collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan have been found in the section of the vessel that was damaged, the US Seventh Fleet said Sunday.
“As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments,” it said in a statement.
“They are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified.
“The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time. The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made.”
The statement did not specifically say the sailors were found dead, but the Seventh Fleet later added on Twitter, “Divers were able to access the space and found a number of bodies.”
There was no immediate confirmation of the exact number of bodies found.
Seven sailors had been reported missing after the USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal in the early hours of Saturday.
The destroyer sustained significant damage to its starboard side and several sailors, including the ship’s commanding officer, were injured and had to be evacuated by helicopter.
The Fitzgerald returned to harbour Yokosuka, Japan, where the Seventh Fleet is based, late Saturday, where the search for the missing continued.
The Japanese Coast Guard was also searching for the missing at the scene of the collision, about 56 nautical miles south-west of Yokosuka.
The ACX Crystal, which was carrying a crew of 20, was only “slightly damaged” in the crash, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, and no injuries were reported.