A US military aircraft has crashed into the sea off the coast of southern Japan.
The wreckage of a US Osprey, which crashed with eight crew members on board, has been found along with a deployed lifeboat, Japan’s coastguard said on Wednesday.
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The coastguard said it received an emergency call on Wednesday afternoon from a fishing boat near the crash site, which is off the island of Yakushima, located south of the main island of Kyushu.
“We received information at 2:47pm [05:47 GMT] today,” a coastguard spokesperson said. “We were also notified that there were eight crew members on board.”
The aircraft disappeared from radar at 2:40pm local time, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno confirmed.
According to witnesses, the left engine of the aircraft appeared to be on fire as it went down into the sea near Yakushima airport, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. Nearby fishing boats rushed to the scene, locating three of the crew members.
A spokesperson for US forces in the region said they were still gathering information about the incident.
The CV-22 Osprey, belonging to the US Yokota airbase in Tokyo, departed from the Iwakuni US base in the Yamaguchi region on Wednesday, headed for the Kadena base in Okinawa, Ministry of Defense sources told NHK.
The hybrid aircraft, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but can rotate its propellers and cruise like an aeroplane, has a troubled history, with a string of fatal crashes over the years.
In March 2022, four Marines were killed when an Osprey crashed near a Norwegian town in the Arctic Circle during a NATO exercise.
In 2017, three Marines were killed when an Osprey crashed off Australia’s north coast.
Earlier this year the US Army’s chief of staff grounded all pilots not involved in critical missions and required that they complete more training after four helicopters crashed in a matter of weeks with multiple deaths.