A search and rescue mission to find seven US sailors missing after an American destroyer collided with a merchant ship in waters off Japan has ended after bodies were found.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, told reporters at a base in Yokosuka, Japan, that a number of bodies had been recovered, though he would not say how many.
The USS Fitzgerald sustained significant damage in the collision with Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal on Saturday at around 2.20am local time.
The bodies were found in flooded compartments on Sunday after the Fitzgerald returned to the base in Yokosuka with the help of tug boats.
Searchers gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision and brought the remains to the Naval Hospital Yokosuka, where they will be identified.
The navy said families are being notified and provided with support during “this difficult time”.
The container ship has berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where officials have begun questioning crew members about the cause of the crash.
Mr Aucoin said 116 crew members on the Fitzgerald were in two berthing rooms, most of them resting at the time of the collision.
The captain, Commander Bryce Benson, suffered a head injury and was airlifted to shore, and Mr Aucoin said he is lucky to have survived.
Two other crew members were injured in the crash, which damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room and exposed a mangled mid-right side of the ship.
On Twitter, US President Donald Trump said: “Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families.
“Thank-you to our Japanese allies for their assistance.”
Thoughts and prayers with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families. Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance. https://t.co/d1l5ctjNyB
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 17, 2017
The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons and is 730ft, the coastguard said, much larger than the 8,315-ton destroyer.
The container ship’s left bow was dented and scraped, but it did not appear to have sustained any major structural damage.
All crew members on board the ACX Crystal were unharmed.
Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though the Japanese coastguard said the area was particularly busy with sea traffic.