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What we know about Navy destroyer’s deadly collision with container ship

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released

(TOKYO) — The Japanese coast guard is now investigating the deadly collision between the Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a container ship off the coast of Japan Saturday that killed seven U.S. sailors and injured several more.

It is unclear whether there were any warning signs leading up to the collision.

Here’s what we know:

The collision happened early Saturday

The USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Yokosuka, Japan, before 2:20 a.m. Saturday local time, according to the U.S. Navy.

The Navy destroyer was operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, when it collided with the container ship.

The area is often busy with sea traffic, with as many as 400 ships passing through it every day, according to Japan’s coast guard. The water’s fast currents also make it a tricky area to navigate.

Authorities have not speculated on the cause of the crash.

The container ship made a sudden turn shortly before the collision

The route of the container ship ACX Crystal, provided by vessel-tracking service MarineTraffic, shows that the ship made a sudden turn around 1:30 a.m., as if possibly trying to avoid something, before continuing eastward.

The ACX Crystal then made a U-turn and returned around 2:20 a.m. to the area near the collision.

It took nearly an hour for the collision to be reported

The coast guard originally said the collision occurred at 2:20 a.m. because when the container ship reported the incident it at 2:25 a.m., it said the collision had just happened. The coast guard later changed the collision time to 1:30 a.m. after interviewing crewmembers aboard the container ship.

Coast guard officials are trying to get a hold of a device with communication records to further examine the details of the crash, which is also being investigated by Japan’s Transport Safety Board.

A spokeswoman for the NYK Line, the ship’s operator, agreed with the earlier timing, but she could not provide details about what the ship was doing for the 50 minutes between the time of the collision and when it was reported.

Seven sailors were killed

Initially after the collision, five sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald were reported injured and seven sailors were reported missing. The remains of the missing sailors were later found in the berthing compartments, which were flooded.

The deceased sailors were identified as: Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Virginia; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Connecticut; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, California; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Maryland; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio.

Four sailors and the ship’s commanding officer were medically evacuated by a Japanese coast guard helicopter, Cmdr. Richard Gourley of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan said. The 7th fleet later confirmed that the sailors were in stable condition and were being treated for lacerations and bruises at the Naval Hospital Yokosuka.

The captain of the Fitzgerald, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, suffered a head injury in the collision.

The warship sustained ‘extensive’ damage

The USS Fitzgerald sustained damage on its starboard side and experienced flooded in some spaces as a result of the collision, according to the Navy.

At a news conference Sunday, Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin of the 7th fleet described the damage as “extensive.” One side of the destroyer suffered a big puncture and gash below the waterline, and three compartments were severely damaged, Aucoin said.

“The water flow is tremendous, and so there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea…,” he said. “They had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic.”

While the ship will require “significant repair,” it is “salvageable,” Aucoin said, adding that he hopes the repairs take less than a year.

The container ship’s left bow was dented and scraped in the collision as well.

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