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Officials Confirm 1 Death as the Search for 7 Onboard Crashed US Military Osprey Continues

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Seven people are still missing and one individual has been found dead after a U.S. Air Force Osprey crashed off the shore of Yakushima, Japan, during a training mission on Nov. 29, officials have confirmed.

The Air Force Special Operations Command said in a Dec. 1 statement that the U.S. military, the Japan Coast Guard, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, local law enforcement, and Japanese civilian volunteers are currently searching for the remaining individuals who were onboard the Air Force CV-22B Osprey.

“Seven Airmen are in DUSTWUN status meaning ‘duty status-whereabouts unknown,'” officials said. “At this time, we can confirm one set of remains has been recovered.”

Search and rescue operations consist of a combination of air, surface, and subsurface search of water and coastline in the vicinity of Yakushima, an island roughly 45 miles south of the Kagoshima region on the southern main island of Kyushu, officials said.

Eight people were on board the Air Force CV-22B Osprey, which was assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing and conducting a “routine training mission” at the time it crashed into the sea.

The aircraft departed the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture but shortly after takeoff, the coast guard received an emergency call, with the crew of the Osprey requesting an emergency landing at the Yakushima airport.

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The aircraft reportedly then disappeared from the radar.

Pentagon Says 8 Crew Still Missing

Emergency personnel were believed to be conducting a rescue operation for the remaining seven who were on board.

However, at a Nov. 30 press conference, Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh did not confirm whether one of the crew members had indeed been found dead following what she called the “mishap” on Wednesday, and said officials were still searching for all eight on board.

“I don’t have an update for you on recovery efforts just yet. Again, we know that there are eight missing. The search and recovery efforts are ongoing,” Ms. Singh said.

The Pentagon press secretary noted that emergency personnel remain at the scene of the crash and are probing the cause of the incident.

“Our thoughts are with the unit and their families, and we’d like to thank the government of Japan and the Japanese Coast Guard for all their assistance,” she said.

The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands much like a helicopter but can also rotate its propellers mid-flight to cruise faster and more like a regular aircraft.

 A Japanese Coast Guard vessel and a helicopter conduct search and rescue operation around the site where a U.S. military Osprey aircraft was believed to crash in the sea off Yakushima Island, Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan on Nov. 29, 2023. (Kyodo News via AP)
A Japanese Coast Guard vessel and a helicopter conduct search and rescue operation around the site where a U.S. military Osprey aircraft was believed to crash in the sea off Yakushima Island, Kagoshima prefecture, southern Japan on Nov. 29, 2023. (Kyodo News via AP)

Japan Requests Osprey Grounding

While its ability to change the way in which it flies provides the Osprey with a great advantage and makes it extremely useful for an array of missions and operations, it also has a history of mechanical and operational issues and has been involved in multiple accidents in the past, including in Japan, where they are deployed at U.S. and Japanese military bases.

Following Wednesday’s crash, the governor of Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture, where roughly half of the 50,000 American troops are based, said he would request that the U.S. military suspend all Osprey flights in Japan.

Asked Thursday if the Pentagon plans to suspend, pause, or otherwise slow down flights of the Osprey in response to the incident, Ms. Singh said no decision has been made yet.

“Right now, the Ospreys are still operating in Japan, but at the time, right now, our focus on, in terms of what just happened earlier this week, remains on search and rescue efforts, so that’s the priority,” she said.

Questioned over whether or not Pentagon officials are concerned that there may be issues within the Osprey that must be looked at before others continue to fly, Ms. Singh said the Department of Defense has a “true commitment to safety when it comes to any of our airmen operating any aircraft.”

“Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the investigation, it’s currently under investigation to see exactly what happened … if the investigation concludes that there need to be additional steps taken, we’ll certainly do that but at this time, the investigation is underway on what happened,” she added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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