“A number” of bodies have been found in the USS Fitzgerald in flooded berthing compartment damaged when the destroyer collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan, according to the U.S. Navy. Seven sailors were reported missing at the time of the accident.
The Navy said in a statement that the bodies were recovered and were being transported to the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, where they would be identified.
“The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time,” the statement said. “The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made.”
Officials have not yet confirmed if the bodies of all seven missing sailors were recovered.
“Divers were able to access the space and found a number of sailors. None alive,” said a tweet from the Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan. “We will ID sailors after [next-of-kin] notification.”
The bodies were found after the Fitzgerald returned to its base in Yokusuka, CNN reported.
The missing crew members were feared lost after the destroyer collided with a container ship about 55 miles southwest of Yokosuka, where the U.S. 7th Fleet is headquartered. Most of the sailors would likely have been asleep at the time of the 2:30 a.m. crash Saturday morning.
A Japanese Coast Guard ship was first on the scene after the collision in a busy shipping lane.
The Fitzgerald suffered extensive damage on its starboard side. Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the destroyer’s commanding officer, was injured in the collision and airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka. Two injured sailors, who suffered cuts and bruises, were flown to the same hospital. All were listed in stable condition.
There were no injuries reported on the container ship.
Officials praised the crew of the Fitzgerald who manned the ship back to base under difficult conditions.
“This has been a difficult day,” 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin said in a statement after the destroyer returned to base. “I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy.”
In the statement, Rear Adm. Charles Williams praised the “extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald sailors who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances.”
Donald Trump tweeted that his thoughts and prayers were with crew members and their families.
An investigation into the collision is continuing.
This article has been updated to remove references to the displacement and gross tonnage of the Navy and container ships, respectively. While the figures themselves were accurate, the two are not comparable and have been removed to prevent confusion.