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US Navy: Bodies of Missing Sailors Found Inside Damaged Destroyer

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka, Japan, on June 17, 2017, following a collision with a merchant vessel. (U.S. Navy photo/Peter Burghart)
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka, Japan, on June 17, 2017, following a collision with a merchant vessel. (U.S. Navy photo/Peter Burghart)

The U.S. Navy said the bodies of seven missing sailors were found aboard a destroyer damaged after colliding with a merchant ship near Japan, officials said.

The service late Saturday said the sailors were discovered in flooded berthing compartments on the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), according to a statement from 7th Fleet.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer suffered extensive damage above and below the waterline on the starboard, or right, side of the vessel after colliding with the container ship Philippine ACX Crystal from the Philippines around 2:30 a.m. local time Saturday.

Three sailors -- including the commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson -- were medically evacuated from the scene and a massive search was conducted involving U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft to locate the seven sailors who remained unaccounted for.

After the collision, crews raced to dewater the Fitzgerald, which experienced flooding in two berthing spaces, a machinery space and the radio room. The destroyer, aided by tug boats, limped into the Yokosuka port around 6:15 p.m. 

The bodies of the sailors were being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka to be identified, according to the 7th Fleet statement.

"The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time," it said. "The names of the Sailors will be released after all notifications are made."

The Fitzgerald had been conducting routine operations in Sagami Bay, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, at the time of the incident.

The accident is under investigation.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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