PHILIPPINE SEA – Search and rescue efforts continue by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels in the hopes of recovering the seven USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) Sailors still unaccounted for after the ship was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.
Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the Japanese Coast Guard, which first arrived on scene and continues to be lead for finding the seven missing Sailors. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri, and JS Enshu have joined the JCG ships Izanami and Kano and USS Dewey (DDG 105). A U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft is working in concert with two JMSDF Helicopters and a JMSDF P-3 Orion aircraft to search the area. Names of the missing Sailors are being withheld until the families have been notified.
The collision effected Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room, which damage control teams quickly began dewatering. While those efforts helped stabilize the flooding, it remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces once the ship is pier side in Yokosuka in order to methodically continue the search for the missing.
Once the ship arrives in Yokosuka, divers will inspect the damage and develop a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces.
As of this time, there have been three patients requiring medical evacuation. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka by a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter. All three Sailors are awake and will remain under observation at the hospital until further notice. Two additional personnel have been medevac’d from Fitzgerald to USNH-Yokosuka by Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 (HSC-12) for lacerations and bruises. Other injured are being assessed aboard the ship.
The USS Fitzgerald Emergency Family Assistance Center will remain open for chaplain and counselor care indefinitely, 24/7, on the Command Readiness Center’s 4th Floor (across from the commissary) – in the same classroom where the Area Orientation Brief (AOB) is hosted.