YOKOSUKA, Japan-- Seven sailors are dead after a Navy destroyer and a container ship collided near Japan. Rescuers found their bodies Sunday morning, Japan time. Now, there are new details about the crash and the rescue mission that ended up being too little, too late.
Watching the U.S.S. Fitzgerald being towed into port Sunday, the damage was clear: a huge hunk from the side of the Navy destroyer seems to be missing. That part of the ship was crushed inward, with a hold ripped in the side. But that damage is only the beginning.
"You can't see most of the damage," Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, a U.S. 7th fleet commander explains. "The damage is mostly underneath the water line, and it's a large gash near the keel of the ship."
In the middle of the night, a Filipino container ship, almost 3 times the size of the destroyer crashed into the side of the Fitzgerald. Two of the damaged compartments house the sleeping quarters, for more than 100 crew members, many of whom were likely asleep.
"The water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn't a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea," remembers Aucoin. It was inside those flooded berthing compartments that search teams found the bodies of seven sailors Sunday morning, Japan time. The youngest was just 19 years old.
Aucoin says even more sailors could have been killed, if it wasn't for the ship's crew, who he praised for helping keep the destroyer afloat.