Final Update:

The Navy has released the names of the seven sailors killed when a cargo ship collided with a destroyer. All were found in flooded berths.

The New York Times:

They were identified as Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Va.; Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego; Ngoc T. Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Conn.; Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Tex.; Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, Calif.; Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Md.; and Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio.

Th U.S. Navy:

WASHINGTON (NNS) — We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates as a result of Friday’s collision between USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families.

As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port.

The Navy family comes together during tragic events such as this and I want to thank those who continue to provide around-the-clock assistance to the affected families during these difficult days.

I also want to express my most heartfelt appreciation to our Japanese allies for their swift support and assistance at this time of our need.

In due time, the United States Navy will fully investigate the cause of this tragedy and I ask all of you to keep the Fitzgerald families in your thoughts and prayers as we begin the task of answering the many questions before us.

Update III:

Note: I am presently on travel and, in addition, am dealing with a six to nine-hour time difference and not much connection to U.S. news sources.

Thus, this may be old news for some and I apologize.

However, this is the most recent and most comprehensive U.S. Navy update of the tragedy. So here it goes:

Admiral Praises USS Fitzgerald’s Crew, Announces Investigations

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2017 — The response of the crew of the severely damaged USS Fitzgerald “was swift and effective, and I want to point out — as we stand by the ship — how proud I am of them,” Navy Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, said today at a press conference in front of the stricken ship that’s now moored in Yokosuka, Japan.

Navy Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, speaks to members of the press about the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald during a press conference in Yokosuka, Japan, June 18, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Burghart

The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal in the Philippine Sea at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, according to U.S. 7th Fleet news releases.

The Fitzgerald was able to return to its home port at Yokosuka under its own power aided by tug boats about 16 hours after the collision, according to a release.

Extensive Damage, Flooding

The Fitzgerald experienced extensive damage and flooding after the collision, Aucoin said in a news release issued today. The damage, he added, included a significant impact under the ship’s pilothouse on the starboard, or right, side and a large puncture below the ship’s waterline, opening the hull to the sea.

The ship, he continued, experienced rapid flooding of three large compartments that included a machinery room and two berthing areas for the ship’s 116-member crew.

Aucoin said the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer’s cabin was also directly hit, trapping Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the commander, inside. Benson is one of three injured sailors who were transferred by helicopter to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka for treatment after the collision.

All three patients are alert and under observation at the hospital, he said.

Thanks Japanese for Assistance

Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the Japanese Coast Guard, which was the first on scene, according to a release.

Several U.S. Navy aircraft, as well as Japanese Coast Guard and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters, ships and aircraft were deployed to render assistance to the Fitzgerald, a release said.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri and JS Enshu were sent to join the JCG ships Izanami and Kano, according to a release. The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey served as an escort for the Fitzgerald and has also returned to Yokosuka.

The admiral expressed his “most heartfelt appreciation to our Japanese allies for their swift support and assistance.”

Praises Crew’s ‘Heroic Efforts’

At today’s press conference in Yokosuka, Aucoin saluted the Fitzgerald crew’s “heroic efforts” that prevented the flooding from spreading, which could have caused the ship to founder or sink.

The crew, he continued, navigated the Fitzgerald into one of the busiest ports in the world with a magnetic compass and backup navigation equipment. One of two of the ship’s shafts became locked, he added.

“Because of the tireless damage control efforts of a resolute and courageous team, the ship was able to make its way back to port safely on its own power last evening,” Aucoin said in the release.

“The Fitzgerald crew responded professionally as all sailors are expected to fight the damage sustained to their ship. They are known as the “Fighting Fitz,” and the crew lived up to that name,” the admiral added.

Navy Finds ‘A Number’ of Missing Fitzgerald Sailors

Seven Fitzgerald sailors were reported unaccounted for after the collision, and the Japanese Coast Guard launched a search effort, according a release.

After the Fitzgerald returned to its home port in Yokosuka, search-and-rescue crews gained access to the ship’s spaces that were damaged during the collision, according to a release.

At the press conference, Aucoin said the Navy “has found the remains of a number of our missing shipmates.”

He added, “Our deepest sympathies are with the families of these sailors. Out of concern for the families and the notification process, I will decline to state how many we have found at this time. We owe that to the families and friends of these shipmates and hope you can respect this process.”

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 difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts are prayers.”

He said the names of the deceased will be released pending notification of next of kin.

In a Twitter message issued yesterday, President Donald J. Trump said his “thoughts and prayers [are] with the sailors of the USS Fitzgerald and their families. Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance.”

Investigations

Aucoin said he’s initiating a Judge Advocate General Manual investigation into the collision, and that he’ll appoint a flag officer to lead that investigation.

There will also be a safety investigation, he added.

“We owe it to our families and the Navy to understand what happened,” Aucoin said.

The U.S. Coast Guard is slated to take the lead on the marine casualty investigation, he said.

More information on any further investigations will be forthcoming, the admiral said.

“I will not speculate on how long these investigations will last,” Aucoin added.

Update II (by the U.S. Navy):

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) — A number of Sailors’ remains that were missing from the collision between USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and a merchant ship have been found.

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. They are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified.

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.

Update I:

The damaged USS Fitzgerald returning to Yokosuka, Japan.

Original Post:

As many news sources have been reporting, seven U.S. Navy sailors are still missing and at least three others are injured – including the captain – after the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-registered container ship collided off the coast of Japan Saturday.

The following is the latest U.S. Navy communique.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and those missing and their families and loved ones.

Search and rescue efforts continue by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels in the hopes of recovering seven USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) Sailors.

Fitzgerald was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the Japanese Coast Guard, which first arrived on scene and continues to be lead for finding the seven missing Sailors. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri, and JS Enshu have joined the JCG ships Izanami and Kano and USS Dewey (DDG 105). A U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft is working in concert with two JMSDF Helicopters and a JMSDF P-3 Orion aircraft to search the area. Names of the missing Sailors are being withheld until the families have been notified.

The collision affected Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room, which damage control teams quickly began dewatering.

While those efforts helped stabilize the flooding, it remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces pier side in Yokosuka to methodically continue the search for the missing and to inspect the damage and develop a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces.

Sailors watch pier-side as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

As of this time, there have been three patients requiring medical evacuation. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka by a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter. All three Sailors are awake and will remain under observation at the hospital until further notice. Two additional personnel have been medevac’d from Fitzgerald to USNH-Yokosuka by Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 (HSC-12) for lacerations and bruises. Other injured are being assessed aboard the ship.

The USS Fitzgerald Emergency Family Assistance Center will remain open for chaplain and counselor care indefinitely, 24/7, on the Command Readiness Center’s 4th Floor (across from the commissary) – in the same classroom where the Area Orientation Brief (AOB) is hosted.

Lead photo: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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