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Missing US Navy sailors found dead

25 June 2017

The U.S. has called off its search for seven missing sailors after finding bodies in the sleeping compartments of the USS Fitzgerald, the Navy destroyer that collided with a massive merchant vessel off the coast of Japan early Saturday.

The navy said the bodies of the missing crew were found by the divers in flooded sleeping quarters.

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors", said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Japanese coastguard also said none of the 20 crew members on board the ACX Crystal, a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel that collided with the Fitzgerald, were wounded.

Search crews found the missing sailors after they were able to gain access to parts of the ship that were damaged in the collision.

"His cabin was destroyed, he is lucky to be alive", Aucoin said of Cmdr.

Several other United States crew members were injured in the accident and had to be evacuated by air to hospital, including the vessel's commanding officer Bryce Benson, who is "undergoing treatment", Aucoin said.

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The collision occurred around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, when most of the crew was asleep in the berthing compartments.

The collision injured the vessel "above and below the water line, causing significant damage", the 7th Fleet said.

Those who did not survive might have killed by the impact of the crash or drowned by the flooding, said Navy spokesman Lt. Paul Newell, who led reporters for a first look at the mangled vessel. Bryce Benson, who is a native of Green Bay, was airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition, the 7th Fleet said in a statement.

All of the ACX Crystal's 20-member Filipino crew were safe, according to Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., which operates the ship.

The 10,000-ton destroyer and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship flagged in the Philippines, collided early Saturday local time off Japan's Izu Peninsula, officials said.

A USA defense officials told CNN the Navy will soon announce the first of what is likely to be multiple investigations into the collision.

"I express my heartfelt solidarity to America at this hard time", he wrote, praising USA servicemen in Japan under the allies' bilateral security pact.

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Similar records for the USS Fitzgerald are not publicly available.

The sailors' bodies were being transferred to a United States naval hospital, where they will be identified. "They had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface".

The crew stopped the ship from foundering or sinking and got it back to port, Aucoin said.

Speaking from Tokyo on Saturday, Michael Penn, a journalist with the Shingetsu news agency said it was "very bizarre" that such an incident had happened.

Stackley promised to "fully investigate" the cause of the collision.

Other investigations could come from the US Coast Guard and Japanese and Philippine authorities because of where the accident took place and the Philippine registry of the container ship.

Aucoin, however, declined to say how numerous crew members were found.

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The navy said that the families of those who were found were being notified and provided the support they need during "this hard time". The weather was clear with a swell of about 1.8m at the time.

Missing US Navy sailors found dead