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US Navy confirms all 7 missing sailors from USS Fitzgerald found dead

  • Collision with merchant ship under investigation
  • Crew members killed in collision identified,
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel on June 16.
Reuters/Toru Hanai
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel on June 16.

The U.S. Navy confirmed on Monday that all seven missing sailors on the USS Fitzgerald were found dead after the destroyer's collision with a container ship off Japan over the weekend.

All seven were found in flooded berthing compartments after the collision with a Philippine-flagged container ship south of Tokyo Bay early on Saturday. The U.S. Navy identified them as Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia; Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California; Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut; Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan , 23, from Chula Vista, California; Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland; and Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.

A significant portion of the crew was asleep when the collision occurred, Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet commander, said on Sunday.

The flooding was in two berthing compartments, the radio room and auxiliary machine room, he said.

The collision tore a gash under the warship's waterline, and should have foundered or even sunk but for the crew's desperate efforts to save the ship, he said. A large dent clearly visible in its right mid-section, the destroyer limped back to Yokosuka naval base south of Tokyo, home of the Seventh fleet, on Saturday evening.

The ship is salvageable, Aucoin said, but repairs will likely take months. "Hopefully less than a year. You will see the USS Fitzgerald back," Aucoin said.

Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way on how a ship as large as the container could ram into the smaller warship in clear weather. Aucoin was asked if damage on the starboard side indicated the U.S. ship could have been at fault, but he declined to speculate on the cause of the collision. Maritime rules suggest vessels are supposed to give way to ships on their starboard.

Japanese authorities were looking into the possibility of "endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence", Japanese media reported, but it was not clear whether that might apply to either or both of the vessels.

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