The search for seven US 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, reports the AP. "The damage was significant, this was not a small collision," 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 wouldn't say how many bodies were recovered, pending notification of next of kin.
He said much of the crew of about 300 was asleep when the collision happened at 2:20am Saturday, and that one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged. "The damage is mostly underneath the waterline," he said, per the BBC. "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." The Japanese coast guard questioned crew members of the ACX Crystal, and is treating the incident as a case of possible professional negligence, said a rep. Aucoin wouldn't speculate on the cause of the collision. He said he would order a full investigation.