Navy identifies 7 sailors killed in destroyer's collision with container ship

The 7th Fleet said it was looking into the collision.

ByABC News
June 18, 2017, 10:48 PM

— -- The seven sailors who were killed in a collision between a U.S. Navy ship and a merchant ship have been identified.

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine container ship off the coast of Japan in the early hours of Saturday morning local time, according to the Navy's 7th Fleet. The Fitzgerald was operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, when it hit the container ship at approximately 2:20 a.m. local time, according to Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin of the 7th fleet.

Initially, five sailors were reported injured and seven sailors were reported missing, though the remains of those sailors have since been found.

"As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments," the 7th Fleet said in a statement Saturday evening.

The sailors were identified as: Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.

Cmdr. Ronald Flanders of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan said the focus right now is on the families.

"An investigation will no doubt be conducted in weeks and months ahead..." he said. "We’ve got people weeping on the pier right now."

Aucoin said at a press conference Sunday that the Navy has ceased its search and rescue operation. While a U.S. official tells ABC News that seven bodies were found, Aucoin declined to confirm the number of fatalities, except to say that there were "a number" of missing personnel. He said he was doing so out of respect for the families.

Earlier, the 7th Fleet said the U.S. ship sustained damage on its starboard side and experienced flooding in some spaces.

At the press conference, Aucoin described the damage as "extensive," adding that there was a big puncture and gash below the waterline on one side of the ship. He also said three compartments were severely damaged.

"The ship is salvageable ... [it] will require some significant repair," Aucoin said. "You will see the USS Fitzgerald back ... It will take months, hopefully under a year.

"The water flow is tremendous, and so there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea...," he added. "They had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic.”

Four sailors and the ship's commanding officer were medically evacuated by a Japanese coast guard helicopter, according to Cmdr. Richard Gourley of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan. The 7th Fleet has since confirmed the sailors are in stable condition and are being treated for lacerations and bruises at the Naval Hospital Yokosuka.

PHOTO: A missile is launched from the aft missile deck of the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during Multisail 17.
A missile is launched from the aft missile deck of the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during Multisail 17.

"U.S. and Japanese support from the Navy, Maritime Self-Defense Force and Coast Guard are in the area to ensure that the sailors on USS Fitzgerald have the resources they need to stabilize their ship," said Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, in an earlier statement.

"As more information is learned, we will be sure to share it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public," he added. "Thank you for your well wishes and messages of concern. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families."

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors," said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. "We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance."

An information center with available counselors has been set up at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka.

Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), the company that chartered the ACX Crystal, released three statements over the weekend regarding the container ship's collision with the USS Fitzgerald. The company said there were no injuries on board the ACX Crystal, and no oil spilled from the ship. It also confirmed that the ship had arrived in Tokyo Bay.

"Our thoughts and deep concerns go out to all those directly affected," the company said. "NYK has established a crisis management headquarters, and fully cooperated with an investigation by the Japan Coast Guard together with the shipowner."

ABC News' Rex Sakamoto contributed to this report.

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