PHILIPPINE SEA -- USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), aided by tug boats, returned to
Yokosuka at 6:15 p.m. this evening, approximately 16 hours after it was
involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX
Crystal while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.
Seven of Fitzgerald's crew are still unaccounted for.
Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, along with many family
members, were on the pier when the ship arrived.
"This has been a difficult day," Aucoin said. "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."
"I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald Sailors who
contained the flooding, stabilized the ship, and sailed her back to Yokosuka
despite the exceptionally trying circumstances," said Rear Adm. Charles
Williams, Commander, Task Force 70.
Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the
Japan Coast Guard (JCG), which were the first on scene and continues to be
lead for search and rescue efforts. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
(JMSDF) ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri, and JS Enshu were sent to join the JCG ships
Izanami and Kano. USS Dewey (DDG 105) served as an escort for Fitzgerald and
has also returned to Yokosuka. 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 affected 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. Though the ship is back in Yokosuka it remains
uncertain as to how long it will take to gain access to the spaces in order to
methodically continue the search for the missing.
Once the ship arrived in Yokosuka, divers began inspecting the damage and
developing a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces.
Three patients required medical evacuation from the ship. One was Cmdr. Bryce
Benson, Fitzgerald's commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval
Hospital Yokosuka by a JMSDF
helicopter. All three Sailors are awake and will remain under observation at
the hospital until further notice. Other injured are being assessed.
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.
Interested family should call DSN at: 315-243-1728, 1729, 1730, 1731,
1732, 1733, 1734, 1735 or Commercial at: +81-46-816-1728, 1729, 1730, 1731, 1732, 1733, 1734, 1735