Seven sailors missing after U.S. Navy destroyer collides with container ship in Japan

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, arrives at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Toru Hanai and Megumi Lim

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Reuters) – U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald sailed back to its base in Yokosuka, with seven of its sailors still missing after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship more than three times its size in eastern Japan early on Saturday.

The Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the merchant vessel at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT), some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, the Navy said.

Three aboard the destroyer had been medically evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, including the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was reported to be in stable condition, the Navy said. The other two were being treated for lacerations and bruises, while other injured were being assessed aboard the ship, it said.

Search and rescue efforts by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels were continuing for the seven missing sailors, the Navy said. Their names are being withheld until the families have been notified, it said.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

UNCLEAR WHAT HAPPENED

It was unclear how the collision happened. “Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed,” the 7th Fleet spokesman said.

The Fitzgerald suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline, causing “significant damage” and flooding to two berthing spaces and other areas of the ship, the Navy said. The flooding was later stabilized, but it was uncertain how long it would take to gain access to those spaces once the ship is docked, to continue the search for the missing, it said.

Back in Yokosuka, divers will inspect the damage and develop a plan for repairs, the Navy said.

The ship was able to operate under its own power with limited propulsion, the Navy said. The Japanese Coast Guard said separately the Fitzgerald was towed back to Yokosuka by a tugboat at about 3 knots.

Part of an eight-ship squadron based in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald had in February completed $21 million worth of upgrades and repairs.

Japan’s Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ASX Crystal, said in a statement it would “cooperate fully” with the Coast Guard’s investigation of the incident. At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship dwarfs the 8,315-ton U.S. warship, and was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

None of the 20 crew members aboard the container ship, all Filipino, were injured, and the ship was not leaking oil, Nippon Yusen said. The ship arrived at Tokyo Bay around 5:00 p.m. (0800 GMT), sailing under its own power, the Coast Guard said.

BUSY WATERWAYS

The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan’s two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

International maritime rules for collision avoidance do not define right of way for any one vessel, but provide common standards for signaling between ships, as well as regulations on posting lookouts.

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK showed aerial footage of the Fitzgerald, which had a large dent on its right, or starboard, side. Images broadcast by NHK showed it had been struck next to its Aegis radar arrays behind the vertical launch tubes.

Such incidents are rare.

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

The 7th Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, thanked the Japanese Coast guard in a post on the fleet’s Facebook page, adding: “We are committed to ensuring the safe return of the ship to port in Yokosuka.”

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart in Washington; Tim Kelly, Linda Sieg, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo, Raju Gopalakrishnan in Manila, Chizu Nomiyama in New York; Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

At least one dead in numerous car crashes in icy New England

connecticut state police

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – An unexpected bout of icy weather on Wednesday morning caused scores of accidents around New England, with 55 vehicles colliding in a series of crashes outside Boston and a man killed in a separate incident.

Police in Needham, Massachusetts, said a vehicle struck and killed a 63-year-old man who had been trying to help another motorist stuck on the ice in the suburb about 18 miles (29 km) west of Boston.

“It appears as though the vehicle was sliding on the ice and was unable to stop before striking the victim, pinning him between the two vehicles,” the Needham Police Department said in a statement. It did not identify the victim.

North of Boston, some 55 cars were involved in a series of crashes in the suburb of Wakefield, Massachusetts, with multiple motorists injured, though none seriously, state police said.

It was the start of a forecast whipsaw of weather over 48 hours. Temperatures around Boston are expected to pass 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10°C) on Wednesday before dropping back below freezing overnight, when a snowstorm is expected to begin.

The National Weather Service was forecasting 8 to 14 inches (20-36 cm) of snow on Thursday.

Wednesday’s ice, the result of an overnight rainstorm, may have caught commuters off-guard since earlier forecasts had anticipated temperatures would rise above freezing before the snow begins, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson.

The result was chaos on roads around Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Photos from the Wakefield area showed vehicles spun at strange angles and entirely blocking the roadway, with emergency responders having trouble maintaining their footing on icy roads.

The Massachusetts State Police had not yet counted the total number of traffic collisions around the state, a dispatcher said.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered a two-hour opening delay for state offices.

“Exercise extreme caution,” Baker said, “as driving is very difficult due to icy conditions.”

Farther north, all but one lane of a major interstate highway in Maine was closed after a tractor-trailer that ran off the road and flipped on its side due to the ice. Work crews were removing its cargo, bags of potatoes, before attempting to lift the vehicle off its side, a state police spokesman said.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Helicopter crash piles pressure on Italy avalanche region

medical emergency helicopter crash in Italy

By Sasa Kavic and and Roberto Mignucci

FARINDOLA, Italy (Reuters) – A helicopter ambulance crashed in the Italian mountains on Tuesday killing all six on board, further stretching emergency services workers who found victims but no more survivors after an avalanche buried a nearby hotel.

The discovery of the bodies of two women in the afternoon as rescuers searched through the snow and rubble brought the death toll from last Wednesday’s destruction of the Hotel Rigopiano to 17 as the first funerals of the victims were held.

The unrelated crash of the helicopter on the other side of the Gran Sasso range about 100 km (60 miles) away in the Abruzzo region put the emergency services under further strain.

Rescue workers had to climb up part of a mountain to reach the wrecked helicopter, which had been heading to a hospital in the regional capital of L’Aquila with an injured skier aboard when it plunged into a mountainside.

The cause of the crash, which happened in the fog, was not immediately known.

The new disaster hit the region as the first funerals were held for the victims of the avalanche disaster.

Family and friends of hotel worker Alessandro Giancaterino filed into a church in nearby Farindola behind the 42-year-old’s coffin, which was draped with an Inter Milan soccer club flag.

“He was a perfect person. Kind, gentle. He loved his job at the hotel,” one friend said outside the church.

His brother, former Farindola mayor Massimiliano Giancaterino, did not speak to reporters. He told Italian state TV on Monday he had signed off on permission to add an extension to the hotel while in office.

“If I had known this would happen I would have cut off my right arm rather than sign the approval,” the former mayor said. “But hindsight doesn’t solve anything. You only ever think of doing what is best for the area, giving people opportunity.”

Some of the 11 survivors spent two days under ice and rubble. Twelve people are still missing since the wall of snow razed the four-storey building last Wednesday, hours after earthquakes shook Abruzzo and the neighboring regions.

Three puppies were found alive in the hotel’s crushed boiler room on Monday. The last time surviving people were brought out was on Saturday morning.

But officials vowed to carry on with the rescue effort.

“We will not stop until we are certain that no one else is left under there,” said civil protection official Luigi D’Angelo. “We are searching in the heart of the building.”

Prosecutors in nearby Pescara have opened an investigation into the hotel disaster. Pescara prosecutor Cristina Tedeschini said her office would probe the hotel’s structure, accessibility and communications surrounding the incident.

(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti in Penne and Steve Scherer in Rome; Writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Philip Pullella and Alison Williams)

World’s largest airship crash lands in England on test flight

The Airlander 10 hybrid airship makes its maiden flight at Cardington Airfield in Britain

LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s longest aircraft, the Airlander 10 airship, has crash-landed after a test flight in Bedfordshire, central England, its British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles said on Wednesday.

The airship, which is bigger than the size of six double-decker buses, sustained damage on landing from its second test flight, Hybrid Air Vehicles said, adding that all crew were safe and well following the incident.

Privately owned Hybrid Air Vehicles denied a report on the BBC that the airship had hit a telegraph pole.

“No damage was sustained mid-air,” the company said on Twitter. Hybrid Air Vehicles was not immediately reachable by telephone.

The 92-metre Airlander 10 made its first test flight earlier this month and the company had posted photographs of it up in the air before Wednesday’s incident.

Once the concept is proven, Hybrid Air Vehicles hopes the helium-filled giant will be able to stay airborne for up to two weeks, and that potential customers might want to use it to carry cargo or deliver aid, for surveillance, communications or leisure purposes. It can carry 48 passengers.

The Airlander can take off and land vertically meaning it does not need a tarmac runway. It can also operate from open fields, deserts, ice or water.

Airships have a long history stretching back to the 19th century, although their popularity dipped in the face of competition from aeroplanes in the 20th century and high-profile accidents such as the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

Hybrid Air Vehicles told Reuters in March that it aimed to be building 12 airships a year by 2018.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Sarah Young; editing by Stephen Addison)

Egypt finds belongings, debris from plane crash at sea

Pilots of an Egyptian military plane take part in a search operation for the EgyptAir plane that disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea

By Ahmed Aboulenein

CAIRO (Reuters) – The Egyptian navy said on Friday it had found the personal belongings of passengers and other debris floating in the Mediterranean, confirmation that an EgyptAir jet had plunged into the sea with 66 people on board.

The military said it had found the debris about 290 km (180 miles) north of the port city of Alexandria and was searching for the plane’s black box flight recorders.

Egypt’s President Adbel Fattah al-Sisi offered condolences for those on board, amounting to Cairo’s official acknowledgement of their deaths.

The defense minister of Greece, which has also been scouring the Mediterranean, said Egyptian authorities had found a body part, luggage and a seat in the sea just south of where the signal from the plane was lost.

Although suspicion pointed to Islamist militants who blew up another airliner over Egypt just seven months ago, no group had claimed responsibility more than 24 hours after the disappearance of flight MS804, an Airbus A320 flying from Paris to Cairo.

Three French investigators and a technical expert from Airbus arrived in Cairo early on Friday to help investigate the fate of the missing plane, airport sources said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said on Thursday that it was too early to rule out any explanation for the disaster. The country’s aviation minister said a terrorist attack was more likely than a technical failure.

Friday’s announcement that debris had been found followed earlier confusion about whether wreckage had been located. Greek searchers found some material on Thursday, but the airline later said this was not from its plane.

SUSPICION FALLS ON MILITANTS

While there was no official explanation of the cause of the crash, suspicion fell on the militants who have been fighting against Egypt’s government since Sisi toppled an elected Islamist leader in 2013. In October, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for blowing up a Russian jetliner that exploded after taking off from an Egyptian tourist resort. Russian investigators blamed a bomb smuggled on board.

Last year’s crash devastated Egypt’s tourist industry, one of the main sources of foreign exchange for a country of 80 million people, and another similar attack would crush hopes of it recovering.

While most governments were cautious about jumping to conclusions, U.S. Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, tweeted swiftly after the plane’s disappearance: “Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant?”

Later in the day, his likely Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, also said it appeared to be an act of terrorism, although she said an investigation would have to determine the details.

Officials from a number of U.S. agencies told Reuters that a U.S. review of satellite imagery so far had not produced any signs of an explosion. They said the United States had not ruled out any possible causes for the crash, including mechanical failure, terrorism or a deliberate act by the pilot or crew.

Amid uncertainty about what brought down the plane, Los Angeles International Airport became the first major U.S. air transportation hub to say it was stepping up security measures.

“LIVES ARE SO CHEAP”

The plane vanished just as it was exiting air space controlled by Greece for air space controlled by Egypt. Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the Airbus swerved radically and plunged from 37,000 feet to 15,000 before vanishing from Greek radar screens.

According to Greece’s civil aviation chief, calls from Greek air traffic controllers to MS804 went unanswered just before it left Greek airspace, and it disappeared from radar screens soon afterwards.

There was no official indication of a possible cause, whether technical failure, human error or sabotage.

Ultra-hardline Islamists have targeted airports, airliners and tourist sites in Europe, Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries over the past few years.

The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two infants, and 10 crew, EgyptAir said. They included 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals, along with citizens of 10 other countries. A320s normally seat 150 people. The plane had made scheduled flights to Tunisia and Eritrea on Wednesday before arriving in Paris from Cairo.

At Cairo airport, a man sat on a brown leather couch crying with his hands covering his face on Thursday. “How long will Egypt live if human lives are so cheap?” he said.

The mother of a flight attendant rushed in tears out of the VIP hall where families waited. She said the last time her daughter called her was Wednesday night. “They haven’t told us anything,” she said.

(Writing by Lincoln Feast and Peter Graff; editing by David Stamp and Peter Millership)

Philadelphia Train Crash: Train Sped Up Before Derailment

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)  say the Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia accelerated from 70 to over 100 miles per hour as it entered the curve where it jumped the tracks.

At 106 miles per hour, the train was over twice the 50 miles per hour speed limit for the curve.

The discovery was made after reviewing a video taken from a camera facing the front of the train according to the NTSB.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt says he’s hopeful the engineer will be able to give clarity as to why the train accelerated into the curve.

“What I believe is a very good way to interview people is, honestly, to not ask them questions, to basically give them a figurative blank sheet of paper and ask them what they recall,” Sumwalt said Thursday. “Really, we want to know his account of what he recalls leading into this tragic accident.”

Robert Goggin, attorney for engineer Brandon Bostian, says that his client cannot remember anything about the crash.

“He remembers coming into the curve, he remembers attempting to reduce speed, but thereafter he was knocked out just like all the other passengers on the train,” Goggin said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program.  He said Bostian suffered a concussion and gash on his head.

“We will have to wait for his memory to come back or for other facts to be ascertained by the NTSB,” the lawyer said.

Eight people died in the accident after the remains of the eighth victim were found today by cadaver dogs.  All 243 people on board the train have now been accounted for by Philadelphia officials.

Train Crash Kills 7 In Philadelphia

Officials in Philadelphia are attempting to find the cause of a train crash Tuesday night that left 7 people dead and more than 200 injured.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said that seven cars of the Amtrak train bound for New York jumped the tracks and that over 200 people are in area hospitals.  Eight victims are in critical condition.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the train was going 100 miles per hour at the time it jumped the tracks at a curve, more than twice the speed limit for that portion of track.  Investigators are focusing on that excessive speed as the cause of the derailment.

That belief was backed by an Amtrak official who told a conference call that excessive speed was a focus of the investigation.

Mayor Nutter said the “black box” data recorder of the train has been recovered and is in the hands of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The President issued a statement sharing his shock about the accident.

“Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the derailment,” Mr. Obama said in a written statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those we lost last night, and to the many passengers who today begin their long road to recovery.”

Witnesses say the crash was very violent with people being thrown around the rail cars.  Andrew Brenner told the WSJ that seats were ripped from the floor.

“I got thrown like a penny,” said Mr. Brenner, who said he weighs 250 pounds. “That is how violent this was.”

Germanwings Airliner Crashed On Purpose Killing 150

Investigators have found that the co-pilot deliberately crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 into the French Alps.

The “black box” voice recordings have shown investigators that Andreas Lubitz, 28, was in total control of the plane and spent eight minutes descending the plane into a mountain.

“He voluntarily … allowed the loss of altitude of the plane, which he had no reason to do. He had … no reason to stop the pilot-in-command from coming back into the cockpit. He had no reason to refuse to answer to the air controller who was alerting him on the loss of altitude,” Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said to reporters.

Robin said that most of the passengers had no idea what was happening until the very end.  The plane was descending at a speed where the entire craft was pulverized by the impact and death would have been instantaneous for everyone on board.

“Only towards the end do you hear screams,” he said. “And bear in mind that death would have been instantaneous … the aircraft was literally smashed to bits.”

Police are searching the home of the co-pilot looking for any clues as to his motive for crashing the plane.

TransAsia Plane Crashes In Taiwan On Takeoff; At Least 26 Dead

Local officials say it’s a miracle anyone survived the crash of a TransAsia flight in Taiwan on Wednesday that left at least 26 people dead.

A man driving on Taiwan’s National Freeway No. 1 captured the crash on video which made it appear the engines failed causing the plane to fall out of the sky.  The plane barely missed the main highway before clipping a taxi and the edge of a bridge on the way into a river.

Officials say that 18 people are still missing in the river but that 15 people were rescued and rushed to hospitals including a toddler.  The driver of the taxi and passenger were also injured in the incident.

Local Taiwan broadcasters played a recording of the plane’s last contact with the control tower where the pilots repeat “Mayday” three times.  The pilots offered to details as to what may have caused the crash.

TransAsia director Peter Chen told reporters that plane was one of the newest in their fleet and had been in service for less than a year.  The pilot reportedly had 4,900 hours of flight experience, leading officials to say it’s likely mechanical failure was the cause over pilot error.

Man Credits God For Saving Life In Fiery Crash

A truck driver involved in a horrific crash in New Jersey is crediting God for saving his life.

“I don’t know that to think,” Mario Quiroz, 53, told CBS News. “I just think that God gave me another chance to live.”

Quiroz was driving a truck full of mulch on a highway in Union, New Jersey.  James Pinaire, 24, drove his car into the path of a fuel tanker carrying over 9,000 gallons of gasoline.   The tanker than slammed into Quiroz’s truck.

Pinaire was pronounced dead at the scene.  The tanker driver is in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson Community Hosptal.

Quiroz’s truck was engulfed in flames.  His driver’s side window would only go halfway down but somehow he could squeeze through it.

And his only wound was a small cut.

“When I look at the video, I think, … my dad had an angel over him,” Quiroz’ daughter stated. “God gave him another chance to live. … He feels blessed.”