WASHINGTON — Seven U.S. sailors are missing and the commanding officer of a U.S. destroyer is among the injured after the warship collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan, the Navy said Friday.
The USS Fitzgerald suffered damage to its starboard side above and below the waterline in the incident. Cmdr. Bryce Benson was one of four injured sailors who needed to be flown to a naval hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.
He is in stable condition, the Navy said. According to a Navy news release from last month, Benson took command of the ship May 13, after serving as the ship’s executive officer since November 2015.
Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said four sailors were medevaced.
Other injured sailors are being assessed, the Navy said.
The two ships collided in the Pacific Ocean about 56 nautical miles off the coast of Yokosuka, the Japanese coast guard has told CNN. The damage to the Fitzgerald resulted in some flooding, the Navy said.
A Navy official told CNN the destroyer is under its own power but has limited propulsion.
The vessel was taking on water after the incident, but the crew was working to stabilize the ship by pumping water out of the hold, a US Navy official told CNN.
The Navy did say a Japanese coast guard helicopter was helping evacuate the injured, and Japanese state broadcaster NHK showed video of an apparently injured person being lifted aboard a coast guard helicopter from the ship.
The Japanese coast guard went on to say four of its vessels and one helicopter were assisting the US Naval destroyer with damage assessment and searching the area around the ship, working on the possibility that some of the missing may have fallen into the ocean.
The official said emergency procedures have been put in place and the ship is not in danger of sinking at this time.
The Japanese coast guard was on the scene and a US official said US tugboats and other Navy assets, including aircraft, were on the way. The official said the merchant vessel involved in the collision is the ACX Crystal based in the Philippines.
The ship tracking website marinetraffic.com says the Crystal weighs 29,060 tons. Photos of the Crystal showed damage to its bow.
The USS Fitzgerald requested the assistance of the Japanese coast guard after the collision occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET Friday).
The US Navy’s 7th Fleet Twitter account said the Navy is working with the Japanese coast guard to conduct a medical evacuation of the injured. The extent of the injuries remains unclear.
The Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer with a crew of approximately 330 sailors.
The ship completed $21 million in upgrades and repairs in February and is currently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the service said.
The White House is tracking the incident, an administration official told CNN.