JAPAN: A devastating incident unfolded off the southern coast of Japan as a US military Osprey aircraft, carrying six individuals, crashed on Wednesday. The aftermath revealed the loss of one crew member, confirmed dead after being recovered from the ocean, according to coast guard officials.
Details regarding the crash's cause and the conditions of the remaining five aboard remain undisclosed, stated coast guard spokesperson Kazuo Ogawa. Initial reports suggested the aircraft held eight occupants, but the US military later clarified the count to six.
The distress call originated from a fishing vessel near the crash site off Yakushima, an island located south of Kagoshima on Kyushu's southern main island. Coast guard aircraft and patrol boats scoured the area, discovering one deceased individual and gray debris believed to be from the aircraft about 1 kilometer off Yakushima's eastern coast. An empty inflatable life raft was also recovered in the vicinity.
"We are focused on confirming the extent of the damage and prioritizing the rescue mission," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno asserted to reporters.
The Osprey, a versatile aircraft combining helicopter takeoff and landing capabilities with airplane-like speed during flight, is utilized by the US Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.
Ogawa revealed the aircraft's departure from the US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture and its intended destination at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where it tragically crashed.
Japanese Vice Defense Minister Hiroyuki Miyazawa disclosed that the Osprey had attempted an emergency sea landing, an action taken in dire circumstances.
Following this incident, a Japanese military base in Saga, southern Japan, opted to postpone scheduled Osprey flight exercises on Thursday.
US and Japanese officials identified the aircraft as belonging to Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo. However, US Air Force representatives at Yokota refrained from immediate comments as they sought to verify information.
Osprey aircraft have a history of incidents, including prior mishaps in Japan, where they are stationed at both US and Japanese military bases. In Okinawa, home to approximately half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan, Governor Denny Tamaki expressed his intention on Wednesday to request the suspension of all Osprey flights in Japan from the US military.