Home » Foreign Forces » VIDEO: Stricken Destroyer USS Fitzgerald Returns to Yokosuka; Search for 7 Missing Sailors Continues


VIDEO: Stricken Destroyer USS Fitzgerald Returns to Yokosuka; Search for 7 Missing Sailors Continues

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan on June 17, 2017. US Navy Photo

The guided missile destroyer struck by a merchant ship on Friday off the coast of Japan is now pier side at a U.S. naval base in Yokosuka while the search for seven missing sailors continues, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman told USNI News on Saturday morning.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) came into port about 6:15 PM local time – about 5:15 AM EST – 16 hours after the collision listing to starboard with the aid of two tugs, as seen in a video the Navy released on Saturday morning. The ship was also escorted to Yokosuka by the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105).

Now back in port, divers are inspecting the damage on the exterior of the ship and teams are beginning the work to inspect the flooded interior spaces.

“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,” read the statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet.
“Though the ship is back in Yokosuka it remains uncertain as to how long it will take to gain access to the spaces in order to methodically continue the search for the missing.”

In tandem with the work in Yokosuka, Japan Coast Guard, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and U.S. Navy assets continue to search around the collision site — about 58 nautical miles away — for the missing sailors.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan on June 17, 2017. US Navy Photo

“JMSDF ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri, and JS Enshu were sent to join the JCG ships Izanami and Kano. USS Dewey served as an escort for Fitzgerald and has also returned to Yokosuka,” read the statement from 7th Fleet.
“A U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft is working in concert with two JMSDF Helicopters and a JMSDF P-3C Orion aircraft to search the area.”

The service is withholding the names of the missing sailors until their families are notified.

“This has been a difficult day,” said U.S. 7th Fleet commander said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, who met Fitzgerald at the pier along with family members.
“I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew.”

Three sailors medevaced from Fitzgerald by a JMSDF helicopter – including ship’s skipper Cmdr. Bryce Benson – are stable, awake and under observation at the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka. Other injured personnel are being evaluated.

The collision with the Philippine-flagged container ship ACX Crystal occurred about 58 nautical miles from the Yokosuka naval base at 2:30 AM local time Saturday morning. Photos of the Crystal released from The Yomiuri Shimbun show damage on the port bow where the merchant ship collided with the starboard side of the destroyer.

The incident is now under investigation.

ACX Crystal off of Japan following the collision with the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) on June 17 2017. The Yomiuri Shimbun Photo

The following is the complete statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.

PHILIPPINE SEA — USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), aided by tug boats, returned to Yokosuka at 6:15 p.m. this evening, approximately 16 hours after it was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Seven of Fitzgerald’s crew are still unaccounted for.

Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, along with many family members, were on the pier when the ship arrived.

“This has been a difficult day,” Aucoin said. “I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates.”

“I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald Sailors who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship, and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, Commander, Task Force 70.

Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), which were the first on scene and continues to be lead for search and rescue efforts. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri, and JS Enshu were sent to join the JCG ships Izanami and Kano. USS Dewey (DDG 105) served as an escort for Fitzgerald and has also returned to Yokosuka. 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. Though the ship is back in Yokosuka it remains uncertain as to how long it will take to gain access to the spaces in order to methodically continue the search for the missing.

Once the ship arrived in Yokosuka, divers began inspecting the damage and developing a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces.

Three patients required medical evacuation from the ship. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka by a JMSDF helicopter. All three Sailors are awake and will remain under observation at the hospital until further notice. Other injured are being assessed.

  • PappyStu

    Hoping for good news on the 7 missing crew…

    • Niki Ptt

      More than 18 hours in the water, with no PFD or survival suit, not a chance.

  • DaSaint

    Another reminder that each deployment is fraught with possible danger and requires constant attention to details and training.

  • Ed L

    Bulbous bow on most merchant ships are rather big Can do a lot of damage

  • Marjus Plaku

    As tragic and inexcusable as this colission is, it’s at least a bit reassuring to know we still design ans build incredible ships. Most naval warships out there would have probably fared worse. The Burke took it on the chin and still made it back to base. The crew deserves credit, a bit strange saying that, with the contradiction of such a massive failure of duty on one hand, and a superb performance to save the ship on the other.

  • tim

    Superficially it looks like the container ship had the right of way. No matter, what does this say about this Navy’s capability? Never mind avoiding the collision, not having time to warn sailors of the imminent threat so they get hurt and missing? Before we spend more money on growing the military, maybe we should first concentrate on that it is well maintained, serviced and trained?

    • FROG75

      Though it’s on the CO; wouldn’t like to be the CDO at that specific time….wonder if the CO was on the bridge?

  • dust

    The only word to link to this event, that comes to my mind, is: inexplicable. Ate least three independent circumstances must occur, for this to happen: Man, equipment and timing, affecting both vessels. This pushes the boundaries of the ‘probable’ with those of the ‘possible’, and – in both instances, it is extremely hard to put ALL together. The USS vessel was almost rammed over once, then rammed again. The Pilipino freighter had to deviate, continue, turn 180 degrees and ram the US vessel finally. Man: it is hard to imagine that – in both vessels – there were no capable people of stopping this from happening. And how about good old people watching in the night, with night vision binoculars? They could have given the alarm. No one? Equipment: how could have failed BOTH equipment (the USS and the freighter’s), at the same time? Engines, peripheral equipment and all other power distribution in both vessels is done via a PC platform, running PLC driven things (motors, pumps, etc) How is it possible that there were no warnings in the USS? No power? How is THAT possible? Concerning the freighter, couldn’t the anchor be discharged? No one could deviate the ship? Reverse engine thrust? How was it possible to turn on a dime? Timing is perfect. Was it done on purpose? If so, why were – in the OTHER vessel – done no maneuvers to avoid the facts. This smells like another 9-11… No one knows – really – what happened there.

  • Leatherstocking

    Condolences to the families of those lost and kudos to the DC parties that saved the ship and crew from far worse, allowing the Fitz to return to port under he own power. With so much energy in the strike, many systems may still be operational but will have sustained damage that will affect the ship over its service life. I wonder how the dependence on electronics over eyeballs on both ships contributed to this incident.

  • OldHickory21

    If the Captain was still in his cabin at the time of collision, then its doubtful that the danger signal was sounded or that the collision alarm was sounded—if either of those had sounded the skipper would have been out of his rack and cabin in two heartbeats. So what the heck happened here? Just speculation, but maybe the watch standers (in the middle of the night–Chernobyl time) lost the bubble on the surface picture while transiting some of the worlds most heavily trafficked shipping lanes and just froze instead of calling for help. New skipper, watch standers who haven’t had much recent sea time due to yard periods??? Wonder what the Captains Night Orders said about close contacts? The Navy should investigate autonomous manuevering systems for use in areas of high traffic where a computer that receives all radar inputs, and is programmed with the Rules of the Road, can steer the ship through such traffic, with the OOD and other watch standers overseeing it.