US Osprey carrying 6 planes crashes in southern Japan, one dead

TOKYO (AP) — A crew member rescued from the sea after a U.S. military Osprey carrying eight people crashed Wednesday in southern Japan has died, coast guard officials said.

The cause of the crash and the condition of the seven other people on board were not immediately known, Coast Guard spokesman Kazuo Ogawa said.

The Osprey was carrying eight crew members and was an Air Force aircraft, a US official who was not authorized to speak to the media said on condition of anonymity. While the Marine Corps flies the majority of Ospreys based in Japan, the Air Force also has deployed Ospreys there.

Earlier reports suggested six or eight people were on board.

Officials are unable to provide additional information pending notification of next of kin.

The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but can rotate its propellers forward during flight and travel very fast like an airplane.

Ospreys have been involved in several crashes at US and Japanese military bases in the past, including in Japan. In Okinawa, home to half of the 50,000 US troops in Japan, Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters on Wednesday that he would ask the US military to ground all Osprey aircraft in Japan.

Coast Guard spokesman Ogawa said an emergency call came in Wednesday afternoon from a fishing boat near the crash site on Yakushima, an island south of Kagoshima on the southern main island of Kyushu.

A Coast Guard aircraft and patrol boat located a man identified as a man, who was later pronounced dead at a nearby port by a doctor, he said. They found gray debris from the plane and an empty inflatable life raft about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) off Yakushima’s east coast, Ogawa said.

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The Coast Guard said they planned to continue the search through the night.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the Osprey disappeared from radar minutes before an emergency call was made to the Coast Guard. The plane requested an emergency landing at Yakushima airport about five minutes before it disappeared from radar, NHK public television and other media reported.

NHK quoted a Yakushima resident as saying he saw the plane turn upside down, a fire coming from one of its engines, and then exploding before it crashed into the sea.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he planned to seek further explanation from the US military, but declined to say whether Osprey operations in Japan would be temporarily suspended.

The plane took off from the US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and crashed en route to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Ogawa said.

Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Hiroyuki Miyazawa said it attempted an emergency sea landing and its pilot “did everything possible until the last minute,” citing the US military.

The plane belonged to Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, US and Japanese officials said. US Air Force officials in Yokota said they were still confirming the information and had no immediate comment.

In December 2016, a US Marine Corps Osprey Crashed off the coast of OkinawaIt injured two of the five crew members and prompted complaints among local residents about US bases in Okinawa and the Osprey’s safety record.

A US Marine Corps Osprey with 23 Marines on board Crashed in the North Australian Islands In August, it killed at least three and seriously injured at least five during an international exercise.

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This is the fifth fatal accident involving a Marine Osprey since 2012, when the total death toll was at least 19.

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Associated Press writer Tara Cobb in Washington contributed to this report.

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