US Osprey carrying 6 people crashes into ocean near Yakushima, resulting in one confirmed death

A tragic incident occurred in southwestern Japan on Wednesday as a U.S. military aircraft, carrying six personnel, crashed into the sea. Reports from several media outlets indicated that one crew member had lost their life, while the condition of at least two individuals who were rescued from the water remained uncertain.

Japan’s coast guard disclosed the discovery of what seemed to be debris from the V-22 Osprey, along with one non-responsive person, approximately 3 km from Yakushima island.

Fishing boats operating in the vicinity managed to locate three individuals in the surrounding waters. However, their current condition remains unknown, according to a representative from a local fisheries cooperative.

In a separate development, another Osprey landed safely at the island’s airport on Wednesday afternoon, coinciding with the crash, affirmed a spokesperson for the local government.

Meanwhile, the U.S. forces in the region are actively gathering information about the tragic incident, as conveyed by a spokesperson.

Following the aftermath of World War II, the United States has made a commitment to defend Japan, resulting in a presence of around 54,000 U.S. troops in the country. Many of these personnel are stationed in the strategically significant southern island chain, with the backdrop of escalating Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Eye-witnesses reported that the crash transpired just before 3 p.m., observing the left engine of the aircraft to be engulfed in flames as it descended.

In response to the incident, Japan, which also operates Osprey aircraft, confirmed that it had no immediate plans to ground the fleet. However, the country has requested the U.S. military to conduct a thorough investigation into the tragic crash.

The Osprey, developed jointly by Boeing and Bell Helicopter, possesses the unique ability to operate as both a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. It is utilized by the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, and the Japan Self Defense Forces.

The deployment of Osprey aircraft in Japan has been a subject of controversy, with critics expressing concerns over its accident-prone nature. Conversely, both the U.S. military and Japan have maintained that the aircraft is safe.

Notably, this incident is not the first of its kind involving the Osprey. In August, a U.S. Osprey crashed off the coast of northern Australia during a routine military exercise, resulting in the loss of three U.S. Marines. Additionally, another Osprey crash-landed in the ocean off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa in December 2016, leading to a temporary grounding of the aircraft by the U.S. military.

Editor: Story has been updated to report one confirmed death and the number of people on board as six.

© Thomson Reuters 2023.


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