The U.S.S. Fitzgerald suffered severe damage on in the early hours of Saturday when it collided with a local merchant ship four times its size off the coast of Japan, leaving at least three injured including the commanding officer and seven U.S. sailors missing, multiple outlets report.
U.S. and Japanese forces search for the missing together in air-and-sea efforts, The Washington Post reported — the damaged USS Fitzgerald having reach its home port at Yokosuka Naval Base.
Emergency efforts at sea were made to help the ship control flooding in the wake of the starboard side collision, which caused significant damage above and below the water line to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room, CNN reported.
The Japanese coast guard said the two ships collided in the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean Saturday around 1:30 a.m. local time — roughly 56 nautical miles southwest from the port of Yokosuka, and 12 miles off the Izu Peninsula, the Washington Post reported.
More than 200 sailors were about the USS Fitzgerald at the time — most aboard expected to have been asleep in their berths when the vessels crashed into one another, the Associated Press reported.
According to a statement from the US 7th Fleet given to the news network, the missing soldiers could be trapped in the USS Fitzgerald’s damaged areas. “It remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces once the ship is pier side … to methodically continue the search for the missing,” the US 7th Fleet explained.
The names of the missing sailors are being withheld, their families still being notified.
All 20-members of the Filipino crew aboard the merchant ship ACX Crystal were safe, The Washington Post reported.
USS Fitzgerald commander Bryce Benson and two injured US sailors were evacuated from the ship via helicopters, CNN reported. All three are in stable condition at the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka.
“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors,” Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told the AP.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted a message of support out on Saturday morning, writing, “Let’s all keep the brave sailors of the USS Fitzgerald in our thoughts & prayers this weekend.”
Investigations are being made into the cause of the collision. Conditions were clear at the time, though a coast guard rep told CNN the area is often busy with maritime traffic — with between 400 and 500 ships passing through each day.
The area has seen three major collisions there in the past five years, CNN reported — including a fatal incident in September 2015 that left six members of a Japanese container ship dead after colliding with a South Korean vessel.
The USS Fitzgerald weights 8,315 tons, the AP reported. Compared to the Navy destroyer, the ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet) long.
Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), the Japanese shipping company that chartered the ACX Crystal released a statement of condolence, CNN reported. “Our thoughts and deep concerns go out to all those directly affected,” NYK said.