Missing U.S. sailors found dead in flooded compartments

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(CNN) — All seven missing sailors from the USS Fitzgerald were found dead in flooded berthing compartments following the warship’s collision with a merchant vessel, a US Navy official told CNN on Saturday.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet said searchers found the bodies Sunday morning after the ship returned to its base in Japan.

“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 Navy said in a statement without specifying the number of bodies that had been recovered.

The 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship flagged in the Philippines, collided early Saturday local time, officials said.

The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.

Naval commanders praised the sailors for containing flooding caused by the collision, stabilizing the ship and sailing it back to port at the US naval base in Yokosuka, where divers inspected its damage and developed a plan for repairs and inspection. The ship had left the base Friday for routine operations.

The bodies were taken to a US naval hospital in Yokosuka.

Fitzgerald’s commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was evacuated by a Japanese naval helicopter while US military copters evacuated two injured US sailors. All three were in stable condition at the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, said Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for US Naval Forces Japan.

The Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer with a crew of approximately 330 sailors. The vessel is 505 feet long.

It completed $21 million in upgrades and repairs in February and is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the service said.

No one hurt on merchant ship

The ACX Crystal container ship is chartered by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) and owned by Dainichi-Invest Corporation, NYK said.

No one aboard the Crystal was hurt, and no oil spilled from the vessel, NYK said. It was back in port Sunday.

NYK and the ship’s owner are cooperating with a Japan Coast Guard investigation into the collision, the shipping firm said.

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

Photos of the Crystal showed damage to its bow.

The ship, which handles general cargo, is manned by a captain and a crew of 20, NYK said. It was built in 2008 and is about 730 feet long.

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