- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2017

The bodies of several sailors who had gone missing from the USS Fitzgerald after the Navy warship collided with a shipping vessel were recovered Sunday by Navy rescue teams patrolling the Sea of Japan.

More than 300 sailors were asleep in their bunks below deck when the Philippine-flagged cargo ship slammed into the starboard side of the the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer early Saturday, demolishing two berthing areas, the warship’s machine room and communication’s room, the Associated Press reported.

Officials from the Navy’s 7th Fleet could not confirm all the seven missing sailors were among bodies recovered by the Navy rescue team. The remains have been sent to Naval Hospital Yokosuka, service officials said. 

“Our deepest sympathies are with the families of these sailors. Out of concern for the families and the notification process, I will decline to state how many we have found at this time. We owe that to the families and friends of these shipmates and hope you can respect this process,” said 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin on Sunday.

Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the Fitzgerald’s commander, and three other sailors who suffered injuries during the accident were airlifted to a naval hospital in Yokosuka, according to a Navy statement. The U.S. destroyer was able to steam back to its home port at Yokosuka under its own power.

In response, 7th Fleet commanders have initiated a “general manual” investigation, led by the Navy’s Judge Advocate General into the accident, as well as a command-level safety investigation into the chain of events that led to Saturday’s deadly incident.

“We owe it to our families and the Navy to understand what happened,” said Adm. Aucoin.

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