The bodies of several missing USA sailors were found in the flooded berthing compartments of the damaged naval destroyer Fitzgerald on Sunday, a day after it was rammed by a container ship four times its size off the Japanese coast, the Navy said in a statement and a Twitter post.
"It was really hard on us when he left for basic because us four siblings are all we have".
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet, addressed reporters at a Navy base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, but wouldn't say how many bodies were recovered, pending notification of next of kin. "As to how much warning they had - I don't know".
Several other U.S. crew members were injured in the accident and had to be evacuated by air to hospital, including the vessel's commanding officer Bryce Benson. "The crash of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald is an absolute tragedy, and I intend to get to the bottom of what happened so that the families of those we lost have the answers they deserve".
The Navy said the collision inflicted significant damage to the destroyer above and below the water line, flooding berths, a machinery area and the radio room.
In a tweet Sunday, the Navy says the search for the missing sailors is continuing. "I am heartbroken by reports that a CT sailor was killed among others who perished on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald".
The Fitzgerald limped into port on Saturday evening, listing around 5 degrees, a U.S. Navy spokesman in Yokosuka said.
The Japanese 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.
"The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this hard time", the Navy said.
The crew fought to keep the vessel from foundering or sinking so they could make it back to base.
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The damage to the destroyer suggests that the container ship, the ACX Crystal, might have slammed into it at a high speed.
The container ship, the 222-metre Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, came into port with large scrapes on its bow, but none of its 20 crew were injured, Japan's coastguard said. Navy divers found "a number of" bodies in the ship Sunday, a day after tugs dragged the ship to the 7th Fleet's home base in Yokosuka, Japan. A U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft is working in concert with two JMSDF Helicopters and a JMSDF P-3 Orion aircraft also helped to search the area. Aucoin said the Fitzgerald is salvageable but that repairs will likely take months.
Similar records for the USS Fitzgerald are not publicly available.
The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.
Japan's coastguard is conducting an investigation into the accident - including interviewing the container ship's Filipino crew - although the U.S. has primary jurisdiction in probing accidents involving military personnel.
Seven sailors were missing, and three sailors, including the ship's commander, were medically evacuated to Naval Hospital Yokosuka.
Japan's coast guard officials said the sea and air search was still continuing at the site of the collision, 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet.
Vice Adm. Aucoin wouldn't speculate on the cause of the collision in an area busy with sea traffic. "The damage was significant".
Photos of the Crystal showed damage to its bow. None of the 20-member crew on the Philippine-flagged container ship was reported injured. It was built in 2008 and is about 730 feet long.