The mother of a US Navy sailor who survived a direct hit to his sleeping berth during a collision at sea said her son kept diving to try to save his shipmates until the flooded berth began running out of air pockets, while others – believing the ship was under attack – hurried to man the guns.
Mia Sykes of Raleigh, North Carolina, told the AP on Sunday that her 19-year-old son, Brayden Harden, was knocked out of his bunk by the impact, and water immediately began filling the berth, after their destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship four times its size off the Japanese coast.
The ships collided about 2.20am Saturday, when the Navy said most of the 300 sailors on board would have been sleeping.
Sykes says her son told her that four men in his berth, including those sleeping on bunks above and below him died, while three died in the berth above his.
‘They did what they were trained to do,’ said Sykes, who said she hopes her son, from Herrin, Illinois, can come home to be with family as he works through what happened.
‘You have to realize most of them are 18, 19 and 20 year olds living with guilt. But I told him, “There’s a reason you’re still here and make that count.”‘
Authorities have declined to speculate on a cause while the crash remains under investigation.
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Hero: Mia Sykes (left), the mother of US Navy sailor, Brayden Harden, 19, who survived a direct hit to his sleeping berth during a collision at sea, said her son heroically kept diving to try to save his shipmates until the flooded berth began running out of air pockets, while others – believing the ship was under attack – hurried to man the guns
Sykes of Raleigh, North Carolina, said Harden, was knocked out of his bunk by the impact, and water immediately began filling the berth, after their destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship four times its size off the Japanese coast
Catastrophic damage: A close-up of the USS Fitzgerald’s destroyed starboard side after it was hit by a cargo ship at 2.30am on Saturday morning. Bodies of all seven missing sailors have been recovered
All seven missing sailors were found dead in the flooded berthing compartments of the Navy destroyer.
According to the US 7th Fleet, the bodies were found Sunday morning by divers after the $1.5billion USS Fitzgerald returned to its base in Yokosuka.
The Navy confirmed that all seven missing sailors had been found, and revealed that 116 crew had been sleeping in the compartments that flooded when a 29,000 ton ACX Crystal cargo ship crashed into the destroyer gouging a large hole in its hull below the water line.
The ship’s captain, Commander Bryce Benson, was asleep when the accident happened and his cabin was destroyed by the impact.
Benson was airlifted from the ship’s deck after daybreak Saturday to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka with a head injury. The Wisconsin native, who took command of the AEGIS-equipped vessel in May of 2016, was said to be in stable condition.
Two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were also flown out by helicopter.
Vice Adm Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, said Benson is ‘lucky to be alive’. Investigators in Japan are treating the crash as a result of ‘negligence’.
Lucky to be alive: The cabin of the ship’s captain Commander Bryce Benson was completely destroyed by the impact and he is ‘lucky to be alive’
Flooding: The cargo ship gouged a deep hole in the ship’s hull below the water line – flooding two compartments where 116 crew were sleeping. The woke to fight a desperate fight to keep the sip afloat
Several months to fix: An aerial view shows the damage to the $1.5bn guided missile destroyer
Listing: A shot of the ship’s helipad shows how dramatically the USS Fitzgerald is listing after the accident
According to the US 7th Fleet, the bodies were found Sunday morning by divers after the USS Fitzgerald returned to its base in Japan. Vice Adm Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, described a harrowing scene as other sailors fought to keep the ship from sinking
Aucoin described a harrowing scene as other sailors fought to keep the ship from sinking.
Most of the damage is below the waterline, including a large gash near the keel, Aucoin 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,’ Aucoin said.
Aucoin said one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew members were severely damaged from what he called a significant impact to its side. The destroyer returned to Yokosuka on Saturday evening with the help of tug boats.
Dakota Rigsby, who is from Fluvanna County, Virginia, was identified Saturday as one of the missing seven sailors
The victims might have been killed by the impact of the collision or drowned in the flooding, said Navy spokesman Lt Paul Newell, who led the media on a visit to get a firsthand look at the mangled destroyer.
‘The damage was significant,’ he said. ‘This was not a small collision.’
Aucoin wouldn’t speculate on the cause of the collision. Conditions were clear at the time of the collision, though the area is particularly busy with sea traffic.
The Navy issued a statement about the search and rescue once they gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision.
‘The missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments,’ the statement by the US 7th Fleet read.
Authorities said the sailors were 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,’ said Yoko Kato, a spokeswoman for the US Navy in Yokosuka. ‘The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made,’ officials wrote in the statement that was released at 10.33am on Sunday.
On Saturday night, a young sailor was identified by CBS 19 as one of the seven missing crewmen.
Dakota Rigsby, who is from Fluvanna County, Virginia, was identified Saturday as still missing. It is not known if Rigsby was among those found by divers.
According to his Facebook, he is a Gunner’s Mate in the Navy. Rigsby volunteers for the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Department and is a graduate of Fluvanna County High School.
Rigsby’s parents asked the community for their thoughts and prayers.
‘Our #USNavy family is mourning a loss. Please keep families of fallen in your thoughts and prayers, as they are in mine,’ Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Steven S. Giordano, tweeted.
Rigsby’s parents asked the community for their thoughts and prayers. According to Rigsby’s Facebook, he is a Gunner’s Mate in the Navy
Most of the damage is below the waterline, including a large gash near the keel, Aucoin 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,’ he said adding that the accident was ‘traumatic’
It is not known if Rigsby was among those found. ‘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,’ the statement read
The damage to the destroyer suggests that the ACX Crystal might have slammed into it at a high speed, raising questions about communication between the two vessels in an area where as many as 400 ships pass through every day, according to Japan’s coast guard.
Most congestion occurs in the early hours of the day, and fast currents make it a tricky area that requires experience and skill to navigate.
The container ship was seen making a U-turn before the collision on some ship trackers, a move that has raised questions about what happened. Both Aucoin and the Japanese coast guard, however, said it was too early to determine what led to the collision.
The coast guard questioned crew members of the ACX Crystal, and is treating the incident as a case of possible professional negligence, said Masayuki Obara, a regional coast guard official.
All of the ACX Crystal’s 20-member Filipino crew was safe, according to Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., which operates the ship.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a sympathy message to President Donald Trump on Sunday. ‘We are struck by deep sorrow,’ Abe said in the message. ‘I express my heartfelt solidarity to America at this difficult time.’
Jennifer Adkison of Granbury, Texas, whose 20-year-old son, Bruce Adkison, a fifth-generation sailor, survived the collision, said in a Facebook message that families are grieving for those who died and trying to get clothing and other items to survivors who lost all their possessions.
‘The only other day I have been so overwhelmed with joy to hear my son’s voice was the day he was born,’ Adkison said.
Authorities said the sailors were transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified. Heavy damage is pictured on the US Navy missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald after it collided with a cargo ship near Japan early on Saturday morning
The USS Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr Bryce Benson (left and right), was airlifted early Saturday to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition with a head injury, the Navy said
Commander Benson (pictured) earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The victims might have been killed by the impact of the collision or drowned in the flooding, said Navy spokesman Lt Paul Newell, who led the media on a visit to get a firsthand look at the mangled destroyer. ‘The damage was significant,’ he said. ‘This was not a small collision’
The other two crew members suffered cuts and bruises. According to the Navy, the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet. A US defense official confirmed that the destroyer suffered flooding in three compartments
On Saturday, US and Japanese forces launched joint air-and-sea search missions to find the sailors as the heavily damaged guided-missile cruiser limped to its home port of Yokosuka Naval Base
An injured sailor is carried by US military personnel (left) and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force members upon arriving at the US Naval base in Yokosuka
US military personnel prepare to transfer an injured sailor on board USS Fitzgerald, after the Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship
Despite the significant damage to the USS Fitzgerald, Aucoin said ‘the ship is salvageable’ and will hopefully take just under a year to repair.
As for the container ship, its left bow was dented and scraped, but it did not appear to have sustained any major structural damage when it was docked in the Tokyo bay late Saturday.
But on Sunday, a group of accident investigators from the Japanese transport ministry found damage to the container ship that had been hidden under the waterline when it arrived in Tokyo the previous night.
Footage from Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a sharp horizontal cut across the bow area, which looked like a shark’s mouth. Many scratches were also seen in the frontal area.
The Japanese coast guard said it received an emergency call from the container ship reporting the collision with the USS Fitzgerald around 2.20am on Saturday.
After helping stabilize the USS Fitzgerald, the destroyer USS Dewey – another destroyer – joined other American and Japanese vessels and aircraft in the search for the missing sailors.
Water had to be pumped out of the flooded areas following the collision in order for the ship to make it to the Yokosuka Naval Base.
On Saturday, Aucoin told reporters that he was ‘humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew’.
According to the Navy, the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet.
Aerial footage shows the crushed exterior of the destroyer which is commanded by Benson, who took over in May.
The container ship ACX Crystal is pictured with its left bow dented and scraped after colliding with the USS Fitzgerald in the waters off the Izu Peninsula earlier in the day, is berthed at the Oi Container Terminal in Tokyo
The ACX Crystal, which is 730feet meters long and weighs 29,060 tons, is back in Tokyo with superficial damage and no reports of casualties
Course: This was the approximate route of the ACX Crystal before it collided with the USS Fitzgerald on Saturday morning
The ACX Crystal’s course shows that it performed a rapid U-turn at speed and then turned to head back to Tokyo – at which point it collided with the USS Fitzgerald
The president offered his thoughts and condolences to those affected by the USS Fitzgerald collision
‘It was a was real fight by crew to keep the ship afloat. Our concerns now are with ship mates; seven sailors missing and 2 evacuees. When the news came we were all focused on the safety of or ship and the crew,’ a naval spokesman in Yokosuka told DailyMail.com. ‘We at the base are still reeling from the events.’
At full strength the Fitzgerald – a 154-meter long Aegis destroyer weighing 8,315 tons – has a crew of 331 sailors.
It is unclear how fast the destroyer was going when it collided with the merchant ship. The area is particularly busy with sea traffic, said Yutaka Saito, of the coast guard.
The ACX Crystal is 222.6 meters long and weighs 29,060 tons.
Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations in a statement: ‘As more information is learned, we will be sure to share to it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public. Thank you for your well wishes and messages of concern. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families.’
According to marine tracking websites, the Philippine-flagged cargo ship was on its way to Tokyo.
Listing: The $1.5billion missile destroyer began taking on water after the violent collision
Damage to the bow of the 29,000 ton cargo ship ACX Crystal after it collided with the USS Fitzgerald
The 29,000 ton ACX Crystal is much larger than the 9,000 ton USS Fitzgerald. The cargo ship appears to have hit the destroyer head on
According to the US Navy, the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, off the coast of Japan (above)
Following the collision, the Navy requested the assistance of the Japanese Coast Guard, with cutters Izunami and Kano on station
The ACX Crystal received minimal damage to the port bow (pictured). According to marine tracking websites, the Philippine-flagged cargo ship was on its way to Tokyo
The USS Fitzgerald (pictured in August 2012) was commissioned in 1995 and is based in Yokosuka, according to the Navy
THE USS FITZGERALD
- One 29 cell and one 61 cell Mark 41 vertical launching systems – a shipborne missile canister launching system which provides a rapid-fire launch capability against hostile threats
- 90 RIM-156 SM-2, BGM-109 Tomahawk or RUM-139 VL-ASROC missiles
- Two Mark 141 Harpoon Missile Launcher SSM (surface-to-surface missile)
- One Mark 45 5/54 inch (127/54 mm) lightweight gun
- Two 25 mm chain guns
- Four .50 caliber (12.7 mm) guns
- Two 20 mm Phalanx CIWS (an advanced radar-controlled gun system)
- Two Mark 32 triple torpedo tubes
- 9,000 tons
- 505 feet long
- 66 feet wide
- Top speed: 30 knots
- Range: 4,400 nautical miles
- 33 commissioned officers
- 38 chief petty officers
- 210 enlisted personnel
- Propulsion: 4 General Electric LM2500-30 gas turbines, two shafts, 100,000 total shaft horsepower
It is unclear how much warning the crew had that a collision was imminent.
Footage also captured a person in a stretcher being taken up to a helicopter from the deck of the USS Fitzgerald. The injured sailor had a head injury.
Following the collision, the Navy requested the assistance of the Japanese Coast Guard, with cutters Izunami and Kano on station.
In a statement, Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said: ‘Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors.
‘We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.’
The destroyer’s commanding officer, Benson, earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In November 2015, Benson reported as the Executive Officer of the USS Fitzgerald as part of the Surface Navy’s Command Fleet Up program.
On May 13 this year, he relieved Commander Robert Shu as the Commanding Officer of the destroyer.
According to a report from the Navy Times, Executive Officer Commander Sean Babbitt has assumed command after the collision.
The USS Fitzgerald – whose motto is ‘Protect Your People’ – was commissioned in 1995 and is based in Yokosuka, according to the Navy, at a cost of $1.48billion.
Its crew includes roughly 33 officers, 38 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted members of the Navy.
The Fitzgerald completed $21 million in upgrades and repairs in February, and recently made a port call to the US Navy’s Subic Bay base in the Philippines and conducted patrols in the South China Sea.
The ship’s crew used the stop to conduct some minor repairs with the assistance of Philippine companies.
Ryan Barenklau, from the Washington-based intelligence company Strategic Sentinel, told DailyMail.com: ‘This is a very tragic event. There is not much information currently on how an advanced destroyer could have collided with a massive cargo ship, but I am confident that there is a reasonable explanation and I am sure we will hear what that is in the coming days.’