In Brief

Seven dead in US Navy collision off coast of Japan

Sailors praised for saving USS Fitzgerald following crash with cargo vessel three times its size

Seven US Navy crew members have died in a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo vessel off the coast of Japan in the early hours of Saturday.

The search for the missing crew was called off on Sunday afternoon, when a number of bodies were recovered from flooded areas of the ship.

Vice-admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US Navy's Seventh Fleet, praised the "heroic efforts" of the Fitzgerald's crew, who he said prevented the ship from sinking after it collided with the ACX Crystal, which is three times bigger.

The cause of the accident is not known yet, but Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the ACX Crystal had made a sharp turn shortly before the collision. claim later challenged by the ship's skipper. 

However, this claim was later challenged by the ship's skipper. "We were sailing in the same direction as the US destroyer was and then collided," he told the Jiji Press.

CNN national security analyst John Kirby, a retired US Navy rear admiral, said it was not known if the Fitzgerald's radar was operating properly, reports The Guardian. He said: "We do not know what decisions the men and women who were standing watch aboard the destroyer made – or failed to make – that could have averted the danger.

He said: "We do not know what decisions the men and women who were standing watch aboard the destroyer made – or failed to make – that could have averted the danger."

Kirby added he expected officials would be punished once the navy had completed a "thorough" and "clear" investigation.

"Short of battle at sea, navy warships are not supposed to hit anything – not the ground, not each other, and certainly not container ships in the middle of the night," he said.

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