USS Fitzgerald crew possibly alone fighting flooding for an hour

The crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, which collided with ACX Crystal last week off the coast of Japan and killed seven US sailors, apparently fought flooding for an hour before calls went out for help, according to Japanese investigators. The destroyer’s communications were put out of commission while the far-larger ACX Crystal was unaware of what it hit until it doubled back and found the damaged warship, reported USNI News, citing two unnamed sources. By the time the crew was able to activate the backup Iridium satellite communications to radio for help, ACX Crystal had arrived on the scene and called in its own distress call. Investigators now think that ACX Crystal was transiting to Tokyo on autopilot when the merchant vessel struck a glancing blow on the destroyer’s starboard side at about 01:30 local time. The crew of Crystal were apparently either inattentive or asleep, but when they realized they had hit something, they performed a U-turn in the shipping lane and sped back to the initial site of the collision at 18 knots, radioing a distress call at about 02:30. The bow of ACX Crystal caved in several spaces in the superstructure of USS Fitzzgerald, including the stateroom of Cmdr Bryce Benson, who was injured in the incident. He and two other sailors were later evacuated from the ship via a Japanese helicopter to a Navy hospital at Yokosuka. Beneath the waterline the glancing blow of ACX Crystal’s bow generated a hole some three to four square metres. This flooded a machinery space and an area that was home to about half of the crew. The seven sailors who died were sealed in the berthing area behind a watertight door as the ship’s company fought to keep the ship afloat, according to The Associated Press. However, US Navy investigators have not yet said anything officially and much of the reporting remains unofficial from unnamed sources. Days after the collision active damage control efforts continue to prevent further damage to the USS Fitzgerald hull, which is dented and twisted. Water is being pumped in and out of the ship to keep it stable and it is being assessed whether the vessel can be repaired in situ or whether it will have to be towed back to the US.