YOKOSUKA, Japan — The search for seven U.S. Navy sailors missing after their destroyer collided with a container ship off Japan was called off Sunday after several bodies were found in the ship’s flooded compartments, including sleeping quarters.


Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, described the damage and flooding as extensive, including a big puncture under the waterline. The crew had to fight to keep the ship afloat, he said, and the ship’s captain is lucky to have survived.


“The damage was significant, this was not a small collision,” he said.


Aucoin said the crew’s response was “swift and effective.”


“Heroic efforts prevented the flooding from catastrophically spreading which could have caused the ship to founder or sink. It could have been much worse,” he said.


Navy divers found “a number of” bodies in the ship Sunday, a day after it returned to the 7th Fleet’s home base in Yokosuka, Japan, with the help of tug boats. Aucoin, speaking at a news conference at the base, wouldn’t say how many bodies were recovered, pending notification of next of kin. He said the remains have been transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka.


He said much of the crew of about 300 was asleep when the collision happened at 2:20 a.m. Saturday, and that one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged.


“You can’t see most of the damage, the damage is mostly underneath the waterline, and it’s a large gash near the keel of the ship,” he said. “So the water flow was tremendous, and so there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea. And as you can see now the ship is still listing, so they had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic.”


Read more at CBSNews.com.


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