7 dead, heavy damage to US Navy ship in collision

"The search and rescue is over", USA 7th Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin told reporters, describing huge amounts of water that gushed into the sleeping compartments after part of the ship's right side was caved in.

"We will coordinate with Japanese authorities on investigations and will address specific requests for access in accordance with normal procedures", a Navy spokesman said. One of the names was inadvertently released earlier today before the Navy had the chance to notify all of the deceased's next of kin. "We will update you once the investigation process is complete", he said.

However, he said the destroyer sustained "a large gash" below the waterline, and nearby crew would have had little chance to escape the "tremendous" amount of water that poured through the breach.

'This has been a hard day, ' Aucoin said, adding that the search for missing shipmates would continue now that the vessel was back in Yokosuka. "He is lucky to be alive", the fleet commander added, without elaborating. Bryce Benson, suffered a head injury in the collision and was airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka.

One of the seven sailors who died after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship on June 17 was stationed on Guam for about three years, according to Greg Kuntz, Joint Region Marianas public affairs officer. "As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port". The Otowasan hit the Porter along its right - or starboard - side, in a location on the ship very near where the ACX Crystal hit the Fitzgerald early Saturday.

Under maritime law, the container ship had an obligation to avoid a collision if it was trying to overtake the destroyer from behind.

A 7th Fleet statement said the collision did "significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room". The ship had left the base Friday for routine operations.

It's unclear what caused the collision, which occurred about 2:20 a.m. local time, between the destroyer and the container ship that is about four times its size.

Following the collision, the United States and the Philippines have also been in discussions regarding the accident and how to proceed.

The Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer commissioned in 1995. The vessel is 505 feet long. The HMAS Melbourne, an aircraft carrier, collided with the destroyer HMAS Voyager, shearing the much smaller vessel in half and killing 82 of the Voyager's crew.

"The ship is salvageable".

The Fitzgerald is salvageable, he said, but repairs are likely to take months.

Aucoin wouldn't speculate on the cause of the collision.

No one aboard the Crystal was hurt, and no oil spilled from the vessel, NYK said.

The Fitzgerald had limited propulsion after suffering damage on the right side below the water line and a US defense official said there was flooding in three compartments.

"Our thoughts and deep concerns go out to all those directly affected", NYK said.

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