The bodies of missing sailors were found in flooded compartments of the USS Fitzgerald, which came close to sinking after a collision with a container ship off Japan tore a gash under the warship’s waterline, the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet commander said on Sunday.
An earlier Navy statement had said the bodies of several sailors were found in the berthing compartments inside the guided missile destroyer but U.S. Seventh fleet Commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin declined to say how many.
The search at sea has been called off, he told a news conference at Yokosuka naval base.
Aucoin said the USS Fitzgerald could have foundered, or even sunk, but for the crew’s desperate efforts to save the ship.
“The damage was significant. There was a big gash under the water,” Aucoin said.
“A significant portion of the crew was sleeping” when the destroyer collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship, destroying the commander’s cabin, he said.
The Fitzgerald is salvageable, he said, but repairs will likely take months. “Hopefully less than a year. You will see the USS Fitzgerald back,” Aucoin said.
Aucoin was asked if damage on the starboard side indicated the U.S. ship could have been at fault but he declined to speculate on the cause of the collision. Maritime rules suggest vessels are supposed to give way to ships on their starboard.