US destroyer collides with merchant ship near Japan

A U.S. guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship Saturday morning local time off the coast of Japan, leading to injuries and seven missing sailors, according to officials.

The incident between the USS Fitzgerald and the merchant vessel happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

In a tweet, the 7th Fleet said the vessel was the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal. The Navy asked and received help from the Japanese Coast Guard in responding to the collision. The Fitzgerald was tugged back to Yokosuka Naval Base on Saturday.

Officials said that two patients required medical evacuation, including Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the destroyer's commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka in Japan where he was said to be in stable condition.

Seven crew members aboard the U.S. destroyer were missing following the collision, while an unspecified number of other injuries were being assessed. U.S. and Japanese officials were searching for the missing crew members. Names of the missing sailors are being withheld until the families have been notified, according to the Navy.

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors," Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement. "We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance."

The ship experienced some flooding, the fleet also tweeted, adding that the full extent of damage is also still being determined.

“The incident will be investigated,” the release said. 

Lawmakers tweeted their concern for the ship and its missing sailors following the incident.


- Updated on June 17 at 6:17 a.m.