June 18, 2017 / 5:18 AM / 2 months ago

Collision caused significant damage to U.S. destroyer - Seventh Fleet commander

YOKOSUKA, June 18 (Reuters) - The USS Fitzgerald came close to sinking or foundering after the collision with a container ship ripped a big gash under the warships waterline, the commander of the United States Navy's Seventh Fleet said on Sunday.

"The damage was significant. There was a big gash under the water," Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin told a news conference at Yokosuka naval base. Desperate damage control efforts by the crew managed to save the ship, he said.

The bodies of a number of sailors missing from the collision between USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and a merchant ship on Saturday were found Sunday in flooded compartments aboard the guided missile destroyer.

Aucoin declined to say how many were found. The search at sea, has been called off, he said.

The Fitzgerald, he said, is salvageable, but that repairs will likely take months. "Hopefully less than a year. You will see the USS Fitzgerald back," he said.

Seven sailors are still missing and three injured after the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided early on Saturday morning with a Philippine-flagged container ship south of Tokyo Bay in Japan, the U.S. Navy said.

Reporting by Tim Kelly

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