7 Navy Sailors Identified After Bodies Found on Ship After Crash | NBC 7 San Diego
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7 Navy Sailors Identified After Bodies Found on Ship After Crash

The cause of the crash between the destroyer and a cargo ship from is still under investigation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel from the Philippines off the coast of Japan, causing major damage and flooding.

    (Published Friday, June 16, 2017)

    The seven missing sailors found dead aboard the U.S Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald were identified Sunday evening, the U.S. 7th Fleet confirmed in a statement.

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

    A U.S. Navy spokeswoman said not all of the missing bodies were recovered earlier Sunday.

    The cause of the crash between the destroyer and a cargo ship from is still under investigation.

    Meanwhile, other sailors fought to keep the ship from sinking, said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet, who said most of the damage is below the waterline, including a large gash near the keel.

    "So the water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn't a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea. And as you can see now, the ship is still listing, so they had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic," Aucoin said.

    The Fitzgerald's captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted from the ship's deck after daybreak Saturday to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka with a head injury. Two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were also flown out by helicopter. Benson and one of the two crew members were released from the hospital Monday.

    Benson's cabin was destroyed, Aucoin said. "He is lucky to be alive," he said.

    He said that much of the crew of about 300 was asleep when the collision happened at 2:20 a.m. Saturday, and that one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged. Aucoin said the destroyer — which returned to Yokosuka on Saturday evening with the help of tug boats — was hit on the side and there was a significant impact.

    The victims might have been killed by the impact of the collision or drowned in the flooding, said Navy spokesman Lt. Paul Newell, who led the media on a visit to get a firsthand look at the mangled destroyer.

    "The damage was significant," he said. "This was not a small collision."

    Aucoin wouldn't speculate on the cause of the collision. He said he would order a thorough investigation. Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though the area is particularly busy with sea traffic.

    The damage to the destroyer suggests that the container ship, the ACX Crystal, might have slammed into it at a high speed. This has raised questions as to whether there was proper communication between the two vessels, particularly given how busy the waters where the collision occurred are.

    The waters in the area see as many as 400 ships pass through every day, according to Japan's coast guard. They are especially congested in the early hours of the day, with ships carrying cargo for early morning delivery in Tokyo. The waters also have fast currents, making it a tricky area that requires experience and skill to navigate.

    The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet) long, much larger than the 8,315-ton destroyer. The container ship's left bow was dented and scraped. It did not appear to have sustained any major structural damage when it was docked in the Tokyo bay late Saturday.

    But on Sunday, a group of accident investigators from the Japanese transport ministry found damage to the container ship that had been hidden under the waterline when it arrived in Tokyo the previous night. Footage from Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a sharp horizontal cut across the bow area, which looked like a shark's mouth. Many scratches were also seen in the frontal area.

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    The container ship was seen making a U-turn before the collision on some ship trackers, a move that has raised questions about what happened. Both Aucoin and the Japanese coast guard, however, said it was too early to determine what led to the collision.

    The coast guard questioned crew members of the ACX Crystal, and is treating the incident as a case of possible professional negligence, said Masayuki Obara, a regional coast guard official.

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

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a sympathy message to President Donald Trump on Sunday. "We are struck by deep sorrow," Abe said in the message.

    "I express my heartfelt solidarity to America at this difficult time," he said, praising U.S. servicemen in Japan under the allies' bilateral security pact.

    Jennifer Adkison of Granbury, Texas, whose 20-year-old son, Bruce Adkison, a fifth-generation sailor, survived the collision, said in a Facebook message that families are grieving for those who died and trying to get clothing and other items to those who survived and lost everything.

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    "The only other day I have been so overwhelmed with joy to hear my son's voice was the day he was born," Adkison said.

    CORRECTION (June 17, 2017, 11:40 p.m. EST): An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that all seven of the missing sailors had been found. However, a U.S. Navy spokeswoman said not all of the missing bodies were recovered. It is not yet clear how many were found.