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US Navy Destroyer Collides with Japanese Merchant Ship

The Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) on patrol in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman David Flewellyn)
The Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) on patrol in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman David Flewellyn)

Updated 10:29 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft rushed to help a Navy destroyer and medically evacuate at least three personnel -- including the commanding officer -- after a collision with a merchant ship southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

Navy officials were assessing the damage to the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, which officials said was damaged below the water line and experienced flooding. Seven sailors remain unaccounted for, the service said in a statement late Friday.

A Japanese television news outlet captured overhead footage of the destroyer that showed crush damage to the starboard, or right, side of the ship, including its deckhouse.

In a statement published just after 6 p.m. EST, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson indicated the severity of the incident was still unclear.

"As more information is learned, we will be sure to share to it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public," he said in the message. "Thank you for your well wishes and messages of concern. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families."

The Japanese Coast Guard is searching for the seven missing sailors, 7th Fleet said in a statement.

In a separate message on its Facebook page, 7th Fleet said two sailors in addition to Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the commanding officer, were medically evacuated from the destroyer to U.S. Naval Hospital-Yokosuka for lacerations and bruises.

The collision happened around 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time. An official familiar with the incident could not confirm which country the merchant vessel hailed from, but characterized it as large and like a container ship.

The Associated Press identified the vessel as the container ship Philippine ACX Crystal from the Philippines.

The Fitzgerald had been conducting routine operations in Sagami Bay, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, told Military.com.

The destroyer sustained damage on the right side above and below the waterline, resulting in some flooding, according to 7th Fleet. The vessel was operating under her own power, but with limited propulsion.

Navy officials requested and were receiving assistance from the Japanese Coast Guard, Knight said. The service's cutters Izunami and Kano were assisting, according to 7th Fleet.

The destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105), medical assistance and two Navy tugs were also being dispatched to provide assistance, 7th Fleet said. Naval aircraft were also being readied, it said.

An investigation into the incident is planned.

The Fitzgerald is assigned to the 5th Carrier Strike Group, which is led by the carrier Ronald Reagan and operates out of Japan.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

-- Brendan McGarry contributed to this report.

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Headlines Navy Destroyers Crashes and Collisions Japan Equipment Hope Seck Brendan McGarry

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