Seven US Sailors are missing after the a US Navy destroyer collided with a 29,000 ton cargo ship 56 miles off the coast of Japan.

The guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald suffered severe damage when the container ship ACX Crystal – which is more than four times the size of the naval vessel – plowed into it at 2.30am local time.

Aerial footage shows the crushed exterior of the 9,000 ton $1.5billion destroyer which is commanded by Commander Bryce Benson, who took over in May.

At least seven crew members are still unaccounted for and a search is being conducted by the Navy and the Japanese coastguard. Two crew berthings and one engineering main space have been flooded.

Three aboard the destroyer had been medically evacuated, including the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Benson, who was reportedly in stable condition after being airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, the Navy said.

The other two injured were transferred to the hospital for lacerations and bruises, while other injuries were being assessed, it said. The Fitzgerald and the Japanese Coast Guard were searching for the seven missing sailors. 

Collision: Heavy damage is pictured on the US Navy missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald after it collided with a cargo ship near Japan early on Saturday morning 

Collision: Heavy damage is pictured on the US Navy missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald after it collided with a cargo ship near Japan early on Saturday morning 

Collision: Heavy damage is pictured on the US Navy missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald after it collided with a cargo ship near Japan early on Saturday morning 

Missing: A US defense official confirmed that there are seven sailors unaccounted and that the destroyer suffered flooding in three compartments

Missing: A US defense official confirmed that there are seven sailors unaccounted and that the destroyer suffered flooding in three compartments

Missing: A US defense official confirmed that there are seven sailors unaccounted and that the destroyer suffered flooding in three compartments

The commander of the guided missile destroyer Bryce Benson was injured during the collision

The commander of the guided missile destroyer Bryce Benson was injured during the collision

He took command two months ago

He took command two months ago

The commander of the guided missile destroyer Bryce Benson was injured during the collision. He took command two months ago

Listing: The $1.5billion missile destroyer is listing to the side and is taking on water after the violent collision

Listing: The $1.5billion missile destroyer is listing to the side and is taking on water after the violent collision

Listing: The $1.5billion missile destroyer is listing to the side and is taking on water after the violent collision

The USS Fitzgerald, a Navy destroyer, collided with a merchant vessel around 2.30am local time off the Japanese coast, suffering damage to starboard side above and below the waterline (pictured)

The USS Fitzgerald, a Navy destroyer, collided with a merchant vessel around 2.30am local time off the Japanese coast, suffering damage to starboard side above and below the waterline (pictured)

The USS Fitzgerald, a Navy destroyer, collided with a merchant vessel around 2.30am local time off the Japanese coast, suffering damage to starboard side above and below the waterline (pictured)

The destroyer suffered flooding in three compartments (damage pictured above)

The destroyer suffered flooding in three compartments (damage pictured above)

The destroyer suffered flooding in three compartments (damage pictured above)

Damage: Damage to the bow of the 29,000 ton cargo ship ACX Crystal after it collided with the USS Fitzgerald

Damage: Damage to the bow of the 29,000 ton cargo ship ACX Crystal after it collided with the USS Fitzgerald

Damage: Damage to the bow of the 29,000 ton cargo ship ACX Crystal after it collided with the USS Fitzgerald

The 29,000 ton ACX Crystal is much larger than the 9,000 ton USS Fitzgerald

The 29,000 ton ACX Crystal is much larger than the 9,000 ton USS Fitzgerald

The cargo ship appears to have hit the destroyer head on

The cargo ship appears to have hit the destroyer head on

The 29,000 ton ACX Crystal is much larger than the 9,000 ton USS Fitzgerald. The cargo ship appears to have hit the destroyer head on

According to the US Navy, the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, off the coast of Japan (above)

According to the US Navy, the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, off the coast of Japan (above)

According to the US Navy, the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, off the coast of Japan (above)

At full strength the Fitzgerald – a 154-meter long Aegis destroyer weighing 8,315 tons – has a crew of 331 sailors.

The 7th Fleet revealed that the ship is proceeding back to her home port of Yokosuka under her own power although her propulsion is limited. The USS Dewey – another destroyer- and two Navy tugs have been dispatched to provide assistance. Naval aircraft are also being readied. 

‘It was a was real fight by crew to keep the ship afloat. Our concerns now are with ship mates; seven sailors missing and 2 evacuees. When the news came we were all focused on the safety of or ship and the crew,’ a naval spokesman in Yokosuka told DailyMail.com. ‘We at the base are still reeling from the events.’

There are now two tug bots with the naval ship, moving at one to two knots and the Fitzgerald is expected back in Yukoska port later Saturday.  

The ACX Crystal, which is 222.6 meters long and weighs 29,060 tons, is now on route to Tokyo with superficial damage and no reports of casualties.

Damage to the US destroyer is catastrophic, with the ship sustaining damage on starboard side above and below waterline. Helicopter and spy satellite footage shows considerable damage to the starboard of the Aegis destroyer. 

Serving at full strength, the Fitzgerald has more than 250 crew members aboard and a top speed of 30 knots. It is unclear how fast the destroyer was going when it collided with the merchant ship. 

‘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 a statement.

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

The collision hit the crew’s sleeping quarters squarely on, and there are fears that lives may have been lost. 

Footage taken of the crash by Japanese media outlet NHK shows damage to the starboard side – above and below the waterline of the destroyer – but the Navy says the extent ‘is being determined’. 

According to marine tracking websites, the Philippine-flagged cargo ship was on its way to Tokyo.

It is unclear how much warning the crew had that a collision was imminent. 

Footage also captured a person in a stretcher being taken up to a helicopter from the deck of the USS Fitzgerald. The injured sailor had a head injury.

Following the collision, the Navy requested the assistance of the Japanese Coast Guard, with cutters Izunami and Kano on station.   

Families are still awaiting news of their loves ones’ whereabouts. 

The cargo ship (pictured) weighs 29,000 tons and is more than 740 feet long. According to marine tracking websites, it was on its way to Tokyo

The cargo ship (pictured) weighs 29,000 tons and is more than 740 feet long. According to marine tracking websites, it was on its way to Tokyo

The cargo ship (pictured) weighs 29,000 tons and is more than 740 feet long. According to marine tracking websites, it was on its way to Tokyo

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, one person is injured and seven are unaccounted for (damage pictured above)

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, one person is injured and seven are unaccounted for (damage pictured above)

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, one person is injured and seven are unaccounted for (damage pictured above)

The ACX Crystal received minimal damage to the port bow (pictured). According to marine tracking websites, the Philippine-flagged cargo ship was on its way to Tokyo

The ACX Crystal received minimal damage to the port bow (pictured). According to marine tracking websites, the Philippine-flagged cargo ship was on its way to Tokyo

The ACX Crystal received minimal damage to the port bow (pictured). According to marine tracking websites, the Philippine-flagged cargo ship was on its way to Tokyo

 The USS Fitzgerald (pictured in August 2012) was commissioned in 1995 and is based in Yokosuka, according to the Navy

 The USS Fitzgerald (pictured in August 2012) was commissioned in 1995 and is based in Yokosuka, according to the Navy

 The USS Fitzgerald (pictured in August 2012) was commissioned in 1995 and is based in Yokosuka, according to the Navy

The destroyer's commanding officer is Commander Bryce Benson (pictured) who earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The destroyer's commanding officer is Commander Bryce Benson (pictured) who earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The destroyer’s commanding officer is Commander Bryce Benson (pictured) who earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

THE USS FITZGERALD

Armaments:  

  • One 29 cell and one 61 cell Mark 41 vertical launching systems – a shipborne missile canister launching system which provides a rapid-fire launch capability against hostile threats
  • 90 RIM-156 SM-2, BGM-109 Tomahawk or RUM-139 VL-ASROC missiles
  • Two Mark 141 Harpoon Missile Launcher SSM (surface-to-surface missile)
  • One Mark 45 5/54 inch (127/54 mm) lightweight gun
  • Two 25 mm chain guns
  • Four .50 caliber (12.7 mm) guns
  • Two 20 mm Phalanx CIWS (an advanced radar-controlled gun system)
  • Two Mark 32 triple torpedo tubes

Specifications: 

  • 9,000 tons
  • 505 feet long 
  • 66 feet wide 
  • Top speed: 30 knots 
  • Range: 4,400 nautical miles 
  • Crew:
  • 33 commissioned officers
  • 38 chief petty officers
  • 210 enlisted personnel
  • Propulsion: 4 General Electric LM2500-30 gas turbines, two shafts, 100,000 total shaft horsepower

Rita Schrimsher of Athens, Alabama, told the Associated Press ‘of course we’re nervous and scared and just praying’.

Her grandson, Jackson Schrimsher, is a 23-year-old sailor aboard the Fitzgerald. Rita said she last communicated with him via Facebook messenger on Wednesday. 

In a statement, Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said: ‘Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors.

‘We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.’ 

The destroyer’s commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson, earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In November 2015, Benson reported as the Executive Officer of the USS Fitzgerald as part of the Surface Navy’s Command Fleet Up program.

On May 13, he relieved Commander Robert Shu as the Commanding Officer of the destroyer.

According to a report from the Navy Times, Benson was ‘incapacitated’ in the accident and Executive Officer Commander Sean Babbitt has assumed command.

The USS Fitzgerald – whose motto is ‘Protect Your People’ – was commissioned in 1995 and is based in Yokosuka, according to the Navy, at a cost of $1.48billion.

Its crew includes roughly 33 officers, 38 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted members of the Navy.

The Fitzgerald completed $21 million in upgrades and repairs in February, and recently made a port call to the US Navy’s Subic Bay base in the Philippines and conducted patrols in the South China Sea.

The ship’s crew used the stop to conduct some minor repairs with the assistance of Philippine companies. 

Ryan Barenklau, from the Washington-based intelligence company Strategic Sentinel, told DailyMail.com: ‘This is a very tragic event. There is not much information currently on how an advanced destroyer could have collided with a massive cargo ship, but I am confident that there is a reasonable explanation and I am sure we will hear what that is in the coming days. 

‘The ship was hit near 2 berthings and 1 engineering compartment. It is likely that the berthings had crewman sleeping due to the early hour of the incident.’

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