US-Japan SAR efforts follow Navy ship accident

US-Japan SAR efforts follow Navy ship accident

American and Japanese aircraft were launched after US Navy ship USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel.

American and Japanese search and rescue aircraft were launched after the US Navy ship USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel at 02:30 hrs on 17 June. The incident occurred when the guided-missile destroyer was 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Initially listed as missing, seven sailors lost their lives and were found onboard the ship by divers.

Shortly after the collision, the US made a request for support from the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG), which was the first agency to arrive on scene, said the US Navy. Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) vessels also attended.

A mission was launched to search for seven sailors. A US P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol plane worked in concert with two helicopters and a P-3 Orion from the JMSDF to search the area.

The collision affected Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side, causing significant damage above and below the waterline and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room, which damage control teams quickly began dewatering, said the US Navy. When they gained access, the divers found the missing sailors in the flooded berthing compartments.

Three patients required medical evacuation, said the US Navy. Cmdr Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, was transferred to US Naval Hospital Yokosuka by a JMSDF helicopter. Two additional personnel were airlifted from Fitzgerald to USNH-Yokosuka by Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 with lacerations and bruises.