TOKYO: A US military plane carrying six people crashed into the sea off western Japan on Wednesday (Nov 29), killing at least one crew member while at least two were rescued from the water. The status is not clear.
Japan’s coast guard said it had found the wreckage of a tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey and a man, who was later confirmed dead, about 3 km off Yakushima island.
A representative of a local fisheries cooperative said that fishing boats in the area found three people in the surrounding waters, and their condition was unknown.
A local government spokesman said another Osprey landed safely at the island’s airport on Wednesday afternoon at the time of the crash.
A spokesman said US forces in the area were still gathering information.
The United States has about 54,000 American troops in Japan, many of them in the strategically important southern island chain, amid growing Chinese military aggression in the South China Sea.
According to media reports, the accident occurred just before 3 pm and witnesses said that despite clear weather and light winds, when the plane approached the airport for an emergency landing, it appeared that the plane’s left engine was on fire. .
The Coast Guard increased the number of people on board the plane to six from the initially announced eight.
Yakushima is in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, about 1,040 km southwest of the capital Tokyo and is known for its World Heritage-recognized wildlife and forests.
Japan, which also operates the Osprey aircraft, said Wednesday it had no plans to ground the plane but had asked the U.S. military to investigate the crash.
Jointly developed by Boeing and Bell Helicopter, the Osprey can fly as both a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft and is operated by the US Marines, US Navy and Japan Self-Defense Forces.
The deployment of the Osprey in Japan has been controversial, with critics saying it poses a risk of accidents. The US military and Japan say it is safe.
In August, a US Osprey carrying troops during a routine military exercise crashed off the coast of northern Australia, killing three US Marines.
Another crashed plane landed in the sea near Japan’s southern island of Okinawa in December 2016, prompting a temporary grounding of the aircraft by the US military.