Navy confirms deaths of all 7 missing crew on damaged U.S. destroyer

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YOKOHAMA  — The U.S. Navy said June 19 it has confirmed dead all seven crew members of its destroyer Fitzgerald who were listed as missing following a collision with a Filipino container ship south of Tokyo Bay at the weekend.

The navy announced the end of its search for the missing crew the previous day after finding a number of bodies aboard the 8,315-ton vessel following the accident on June 17. The sailors were aged 19 to 37.

The U.S. destroyer, equipped with the state-of-the-art Aegis missile defense system, sustained significant damage to its starboard side near the bridge in the collision.

The damaged U.S. ship was able to return to the naval base in Yokosuka.

Meanwhile, the Philippine-flagged container ship that collided with the Fitzgerald was to move to Yokohama port from a port in Tokyo for cargo-related work on June 19.

The Japanese government’s top spokesman said June 19 it will “continue to work on the necessary investigation and information gathering with the cooperation of the United States.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also expressed his condolences 

over the deaths and his sympathy for the injured.

The Japan Coast Guard has been investigating the container ship and its crew with a view to pursuing a charge of professional negligence, but cannot go forward without the help of the U.S. military.

That cooperation would include allowing inspections of the bodies and questioning of the injured survivors.

A charge of professional negligence is difficult to mount without information on the condition of the bodies or the cause of the collision.

The United States has primary jurisdiction in incidents involving members of U.S. forces under the bilateral status of forces agreement governing their presence in Japan.

The Fitzgerald has been sailing in Japanese coastal waters to monitor North Korea following a series of ballistic missile launches.

Suga refrained June 19 from remarking whether the incapacitation of the Fitzgerald might compromise the allies’ ability to defend against missiles from North Korea, but stressed that it is “extremely important to continue to secure the U.S. deterrent capacity.”

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