In the latest accident involving a tiltrotor military plane, rescue teams searched off the coast of Japan on Thursday for seven missing U.S. airmen whose Osprey crashed during a training exercise.
Japan’s defense minister said he had asked U.S. forces in Japan to suspend Osprey flights following the deadly incident.
One person was found unconscious at sea after a plane crashed off the coast of Yakushima on Wednesday and was later pronounced dead, Japan’s Japan Coast Guard said.
The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command said the eight-member crew was flying the CV-22B Osprey on a “routine training mission” from Yokota Air Base, Japan.
“The cause of the accident is unknown at this time,” the department said in a statement Wednesday, adding that emergency crews were “conducting search and rescue operations at the scene.”
An emergency management official in the Kagoshima region, where the crash occurred, said police had received information that the plane was “breathing fire from the left engine.”
Photos released by the Coast Guard showed what appeared to be an overturned yellow life raft and other debris off the coast of Yakushima, south of Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu.
A Japanese coast guard spokesman told AFP on Thursday that the search operation continued through the night and involved six patrol boats and two aircraft.
Police and local rescue workers also attended, and the Coast Guard said it would use special sonar equipment to scan the ocean floor.
The Coast Guard initially said there were eight crew members on board, but later revised that to six, then back to eight.
series of crashes
The Osprey, which was developed by Bell Helicopters and Boeing and can operate like a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft, has been involved in a series of fatal accidents.
In August, a crash in northern Australia killed three U.S. Marines among the 23 people on board.
Last year, four U.S. Marines were killed when an MV-22B Osprey crashed during a NATO training exercise in Norway.
In 2017, another Osprey crashed into the back of a transport ship while attempting to land off Australia’s north coast, killing three Marines.
And in 2000, an Osprey crashed during a training exercise in Arizona, killing 19 Marines.
In 2016, the United States temporarily stationed an MV-22 Osprey in Japan after it crash-landed off the coast of Okinawa, an incident that sparked anger among locals.
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara announced on Thursday that he had once again asked the U.S. military to suspend aircraft operations following the latest crash.
Referring to the U.S. Forces in Japan at the House of Councilors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Kihara said, “After receiving the first report, we worked to save lives, and this morning I made a request to the commander of the U.S. Forces in Japan.”
Kihara said Japan has asked the U.S. military to suspend Osprey flights “until safety is confirmed, except for search and rescue operations.”
“I would like to request prompt disclosure of information regarding the circumstances of the accident,” he said.
The U.S. military, which has about 54,000 troops in Japan, has not yet commented on the suspension request.
Government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno expressed his condolences over the crash, but said the Japanese military had already suspended Osprey flights “until it is confirmed that it is safe.”
“An incident like this causes great anxiety to local residents and is extremely regrettable.”
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