At least three sailors have been injured and seven are missing after a US Navy destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan. Images show a large dent in the side of the US ship.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (Reuters/Kyodo)The Japanese Coast Guard said the US ship was experiencing some flooding but was not in danger of sinking

At least seven crew members are missing after a US Navy guided missile destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel off the coast of Japan early Saturday morning.

The USS Fitzgerald hit the ACX Crystal container ship 56 nautical miles (104 kilometers/64 miles) southwest of Yokosuka, the US Navy said in a statement. Three people, including the commanding officer, Bryce Benson, were injured in the collision. They were airlifted to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka where their condition was stable. They were treated for lacerations and bruises.

It was unclear how many others may have been hurt.

The ships collided at about 2:30 a.m. local time Saturday (1730 UTC Friday). It remained unclear what caused the crash.

“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors,” said Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK aired aerial footage of the destroyer showing a large dent in its starboard (right) side next to its Aegis radar arrays behind its vertical launch tubes.

Damage on the deck of the destroyer and to part of the radar appeared significant. The footage also showed relatively light damage on the port bow of the ACX Crystal.

The 20-man crew on board the ACX Crystal was uninjured, Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen KK told local media.

The US Navy has requested the assistance of the Japanese Coast Guard, while the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it was monitoring events closely.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (Reuters/Kyodo)The Japanese Coast Guard said the US ship was experiencing some flooding but was not in danger of sinking

Destroyer flooded

The US 7th fleet said the destroyer had “experienced flooding in some spaces.” A spokesman for the 7th Fleet later told Reuters the ship was heading back to Yokosuka under its own power.

The Navy has dispatched the USS Dewey, medical assistance and two Navy tugs, and naval aircraft are being readied to help. It said that the damage to the ship and the extent of injuries suffered by the crew were still to be determined.

The Japanese Coast Guard has dispatched five patrol ships and an aircraft carrying medics to the site for search and rescue operations.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported neither ship was in danger of sinking, but said some crew may have gone overboard.

Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal (Reuters/Kyodo)The ACX Crystal container ship suffered damage on the port side

Nervous relatives

Some relatives of crew members are awaiting news of their loved ones, with others relieved to discover they are safe and sound.

“Just heard the sweetest voice and saw a wonderful face. He’s okay. Thank you all for the prayers,” Rita Schrimsher of Athens,
Alabama, tweeted after speaking with her 23-year-old grandson Jackson Schrimsher via Facetime. She had earlier told The Associated Press that she had not heard from him since Wednesday.

In May, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel, but both ships were able to operate under their own power.

Yokosuka and the waters to its south belong to a busy commercial waterway plied by commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan’s two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

The USS Fitzgerald is a 154-meter (505-foot) Arleigh Burke class gas-turbine propelled destroyer launched in 1994. The ACX Crystal is a 213-meter (700-foot) container ship built in 2008.

aw, dm/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)