Bodies of several US Navy sailors found after collision off Japanese coast

The bodies were located in flooded berthing compartments after the crash on Saturday morning

Bodies of several US Navy sailors found after collision off Japanese coast

The damaged USS Fitzgerald. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart.

The US Navy says the bodies of a number of its sailors have been found after a collision between one of its vessels and a merchant ship off the coast of Japan.

Seven sailors were previously reported missing, although officials have not yet said how many bodies were recovered from the USS Fitzgerald.

The incident happened at around 2.30am local time on Saturday, around 56 nautical miles southwest of the US base in Yokosuka.

The damaged ship has since been brought back to Yokosuka with the aid of tug boats.

Two berthing spaces, a machinery space and the radio room are said to have been damaged and flooded as a result of the crash.

In a statement, the US Navy said: "As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing Sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments.

"They are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified. The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time."

Three other sailors were injured in the incident - including the vessel's commanding officer Bryce Benson - and required medically evacuation from the USS Fitzgerald. All three are said to be awake.

Rear Admiral Charles Williams noted: "I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald Sailors who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances."

The cause of the collision - which happened in an area with busy sea traffic - was not immediately clear.

The 29,000 tonne container ship, ASX Crystal, was significantly larger than the 8,000 tonne guided missile destroyer.

Nippon Yusen KK - the company which chartered the merchant ship - said: "NYK and the shipowner are fully cooperating with an investigation being conducted by the Japan Coast Guard."

Additional reporting by IRN