Seven crew members were missing and at least three injured after a U.S. Navy destroyer collided early Saturday with a Philippine merchant ship off the coast of Japan.
Rescuers were searching for the unaccounted for sailors who were thought to have been thrown into the sea or possibly trapped inside the damaged vessel, said Japanese coast guard spokesman Yoshihito Nakamura.
The Navy said in a statement that Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the commanding officer of the Fitzgerald, was evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, home base of the 7th Fleet, in stable condition.
Two other crew suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated, officials said. It was unclear if there were other injuries.
As of 9 a.m. local time, the crew aboard the Fitzgerald was trying to control the damage as the ship made its way back to land, sources told Navy Times.
The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m., 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, officials said.
Most of the ship’s 200-plus crewmembers were likely asleep at the time.
The Fitzgerald suffered extensive damage above and beneath the waterline on its starboard side when it struck a Philippine-flagged vessel named ACX Crystal.
The merchant ship is more than four times the size of the Fitzgerald. No damage or injuries to the container ship or its crew members have been reported.
Navy chief Adm. John Richardson said Navy, Japanese maritime defense vessels and the Japanese coast guard are working to stabilize the badly damaged ship.
A U.S. defense official said there is flooding in three compartments of the Fitzgerald.
With News Wire Services
With MEGAN CERULLO