In western Japan, a U.S. military aircraft carrying eight people crashed into the sea on Wednesday. Fishermen reported finding three individuals, but their condition is currently unknown.
The coast guard deployed patrol boats and aircraft to the site of the crash, which occurred off the island of Yakushima, where the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey went down.
According to a representative of a local fisheries cooperative, fishing boats in the area discovered three individuals in the nearby waters.
The crash took place near the island’s airport, where another Osprey successfully landed on Wednesday afternoon, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the prefectural government.
U.S. forces in the region are still collecting information related to the incident, according to a spokesperson.
Witnesses reported that the crash occurred just before 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) and mentioned that the aircraft’s left engine seemed to be on fire as it descended, media outlets disclosed.
At 2:40 p.m. local time, the aircraft vanished from radar, stated Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.
The Osprey, capable of both helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft flight, is operated by the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, and the Japan Self Defense Forces.
The deployment of the Osprey in Japan has spurred controversy, with critics claiming it is susceptible to accidents. The U.S. military and Japan maintain that it is safe.
Notably, in August, a U.S. Osprey crashed off the coast of northern Australia during a routine military exercise, resulting in the deaths 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 U.S. military grounding of the aircraft.
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Tim Kelly and Satoshi Sugiyama; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by David Dolan, Gerry Doyle and Nick Macfie
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