7 Sailors Still Missing, Commander Injured After USS Fitzgerald Collides With Merchant Ship

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.
U.S. Navy photo


Seven sailors are missing and three more, including the commanding officer, were confirmed injured after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel early Saturday off the coast of Japan.

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who took the helm of the Yokosuka-based destroyer last month, is in stable condition after being evacuated by helicopter to a naval hospital in Yokosuka, Navy officials said.

The other two injured sailors, who received lacerations and bruises, were flown to the same hospital, 7th Fleet announced on its Facebook page.

The collision happened about 2:30 a.m. Saturday about 56 nautical miles (roughly 64 miles) southwest of Yokosuka near the Izu Peninsula, a Navy statement said.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.Lauren Katzenberg

The Fitzgerald was damaged above and below the water line on the starboard side near the bridge, a Navy official said.

Flooding had been stabilized and sailors from the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey were assisting with “damage control efforts,” according to an early afternoon tweet from the 7th Fleet’s official account.

U.S. helicopters and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft were also assisting, said the Navy official, who did not know how it was discovered that the sailors were missing but said after any type of incident like this there would be a muster to ensure all hands were accounted for.

The Fitzgerald arrived back in Yokosuka Naval Base's harbor sometime around 6 p.m. Saturday, with tugboats assisting the ship's return.

An information center has been opened at Yokosuka’s Community Readiness Center to brief crew members' families on the situation. Base spokesman Sean Kelly said the center is staffed with counselors, chaplains and has child care available.

My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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