Eight airmen aboard US Osprey that crashed off Japan assumed dead
Japan - All eight airmen who were aboard an Osprey military aircraft that crashed off Japan are considered deceased, the US Air Force said Tuesday.
The Osprey — which can operate like a helicopter or a fixed-wing turboprop plane — disappeared last Wednesday near the island of Yakushima, sparking an intense search for survivors.
"The US military transitioned search and rescue operations to search and recovery operations," meaning "survivors are unlikely," the Air Force Special Operations Command said in a statement.
"Of the eight airmen, the remains of three airmen have been recovered, the remains of another three airmen have been located and are in the process of being recovered, and the remains of two airmen are still being located," it said.
Offering his condolences, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the military would "continue to gather information" on the incident and conduct "a rigorous and thorough investigation."
President Joe Biden said in a statement that "our entire nation mourns this tragic loss."
"Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who lost a loved one in this terrible accident," Biden said, referring to the first lady.
Osprey aircraft have been involved in several fatal accidents
Osprey aircraft have suffered a string of fatal accidents, including a crash in northern Australia that killed three Marines in August and another in Norway during NATO training exercises last year that left four dead.
Three Marines were also killed in 2017 when another Osprey crashed off Australia's north coast, and 19 Marines died when their Osprey crashed during drills in Arizona in 2000. The United States temporarily grounded the aircraft in Japan in 2016 after an Osprey crash-landed off Okinawa, sparking anger among locals.
Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said on Thursday he had asked the US military to again suspend Osprey flights — except for search-and-rescue operations — and that Japan's military had halted using its own Ospreys pending safety checks.
But the Pentagon said the following day that only the unit of the crashed CV-22 had stopped flying. It was not immediately clear if that halt was still in effect.
Cover photo: REUTERS