UPDATE (10:57 PM June 17): The Navy has now confirmed the seven missing sailors are dead.
UPDATE: According to a Navy release this morning, search and rescue efforts are underway for the seven sailors now confirmed missing. A total of five sailors, including the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, have been medevaced to Yokosuka. Three Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels, the Ohnami, Hamagiri, and Enshu, have arrived to provide assistance, and a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is assisting in the search for the missing sailors.
Earlier, the Navy reported that the Fitzgerald returned to Yokosuka.
“I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the 7th Fleet’s commanding officer said.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) has been involved in a collision at sea with a Philippine merchant vessel. At the time of this writing, two Japanese Coast Guard cutters, the Izunami and Kano, are on the scene.
According to a release by Commander, 7th Fleet, the Fitzgerald collided with the ACX Crystal, a container ship built in 2008 that has a gross tonnage of 29,093 tons, at 2:30 AM Saturday (local time) about 56 miles off the coast of Japan.
The collision put a hole in the starboard side of the destroyer, and caused a number of casualties, including one that is requiring a medevac, which is being coordinated as of this writing.
The Navy release stated that the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) and two tugs have been sent to assist USS Fitzgerald, which is steaming back to Yokosuka under its own power, but is limited to a speed of three knots.
The destroyer has suffered flooding due to the collision.
The Navy reported that the full extent of damage and casualties were still being assessed. A Richmond Times-Dispatch e-mail alert citing the Associated Press claimed that seven sailors were missing after the collision.
Official U.S. Navy releases have not yet confirmed that any sailors are missing, and a Navy spokesman refused to comment on the reports to WATM when contacted via phone.
A tweet by Commander Naval Forces Japan stated that a family information center has been opened at Yokosuka.
An information center is open at CFAY for USS Fitzgerald families, counselors on scene. CAPT Kim, CFAY CO will address families at 0945.
— COMNAVFORJAPAN (@COMNAVFORJAPAN) June 17, 2017
The Fitzgerald was commissioned in 1995 and is the 12th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. It is equipped with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems with a total of 90 cells, a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes. She has a crew of 303 according to a U.S. Navy fact sheet.