Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

US Navy chief promises full probe of collision


Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of the Oakville section of Watertown was identified as one of the victims Sunday night.

"As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments", the 7th Fleet said in a statement Saturday evening.

"This loss is something we all feel", Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the United States 7th Fleet, told reporters alongside the ship at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan Sunday.

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

Three others aboard the ship were injured in the collision, including the Fitzgerald's commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted early Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition with a head injury, the Navy said.

"Navy is family and when we lose family, it can hurt", Kuntz said.

Crew members from the destroyer USS Dewey stabilized the flooding on the Fitzgerald, and American sailors and the Japanese Coast Guard continued to search for the missing sailors. Gesturing to the destroyer, docked behind him with pumps continuing to bring water up out of the hull, he added: "They had to fight this ship to keep it above the surface".

The sailors' remains were transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Aucoin said, noting the "families are being notified and will be provided the support they need at this hard time".

Many of the Fitzgerald's crew were asleep when the incident happened.

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The Navy, Japanese maritime defense vessels and the coast guard were working to stabilize the destroyer as it headed to shore, said Navy chief Adm. John Richardson.

The Aegis-equipped Fitzgerald, which suffered considerable damage to its right side in the collision, returned to the Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, about 50 km southwest of Tokyo, with the assistance of a tug boat. "It was traumatic", Aucoin said at a news conference at the Yokosuka base on Sunday.

The US Navy's 7th Fleet Twitter account said the Navy is working with the Japanese coast guard to conduct a medical evacuation of the injured.

Aucoin was asked if damage on the starboard side indicated the USA ship could have been at fault, but he declined to speculate on the cause of the collision.

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.

Aucoin said that sea water gushed into sleeping compartments and that part of the ship's right side was caved in. The 29,000-ton Philippine ship is 222 meters long, while the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer is 154 meters long.

Nanami Meguro, a spokeswoman for NYK Line, the ship's operator, agreed with the revised timing of the collision. "I can't tell you how proud I am of the crew for what they did to save the ship", he said.

"We have found a number of the remains. of our missing shipmates, and our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those shipmates", he said.

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