The U.S. Navy identified Monday morning the seven sailors who were found dead in the flooded sleeping compartments of the USS Fitzgerald, the Navy destroyer involved in a collision with a massive merchant ship early Saturday off the coast of Japan.
Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley said in a statement that “We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates.”
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said Sunday “a significant portion of the crew was sleeping” when the destroyer and a Philippine-flagged container ship, the ACX Crystal collided. He said that sea water gushed into sleeping compartments and that part of the ship’s right side was caved in.
Aucoin said, “The ship suffered severe damage rapidly flooding three large compartments that included one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew.”
Three of the crew were injured in the accident, including the vessel’s commanding officer Bryce Benson, whose cabin, Aucoin said was “directly hit, trapping the CO inside.”
Aucoin said Benson, who is in stable condition with a head injury, “is lucky to be alive.” The two other sailors suffered cuts and bruises.
Aucoin said the Navy will launch an investigation into the collision because “we owe it to our families and the Navy to understand what happened.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the details regarding the conditions during the final moments, but hope that the investigation may shed some light on that matter,” Aucoin said.
Japanese authorities are also investigating the accident.
The victims were Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19 from Palmyra, Virginia; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoe 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.
The Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal — a ship nearly four times the size of the destroyer — collided early Saturday. The 29,000-ton Philippine ship is 222 meters long, while the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer is 154 meters long. It was not immediately clear what caused the accident.
None of the Crystal crew was hurt.
Jennifer Adkison of Granbury, Texas, whose 20-year old son, Bruce Adkison, a fifth-generation sailor, survived the collision, said in a Facebook message that families are grieving for those who died and trying to get clothing and other items to survivors who lost all their possessions.
“The only other day I have been so overwhelmed with joy to hear my son’s voice was the day he was born,” Adkison said.