At least one person has died after a U.S. military Osprey aircraft with six people on board crashed into the sea near an island off southern Japan on Wednesday morning, officials said.
A regional coast guard spokesperson confirmed that the plane crashed into the ocean near Yakushima, an island about 45 miles south of the Kagoshima region on the southern main island of Kyushu.
The coast guard said in an earlier statement that eight people were on board the plane, a figure that was revised downward, while he confirmed that one man was recovered from the sea “unconscious and was not breathing” 1.8 miles from Anbo Port, which is near the accident site on the eastern side of Yakushima, by a boat from the Yakushima Town Rescue Center. They were given CPR and taken to Anbo Port, it said. The unnamed crew member was later pronounced dead in hospital.
There were no immediate details available on the status of the aircraft or the rest of those on board.
The coast guard said in a statement that a member of the public called 118, Japan’s version of 911, at 2:47 p.m. (12:47 a.m. ET). The coast guard said it immediately deployed patrol vessels and aircraft to the scene.
At 4 p.m. (2 a.m. ET) a rescue team including boats from the coast guard and a local rescue center found “wreckage-like debris” and an overturned life raft, the coast guard said.
Kadena Air Base on the island of Okinawa, is the largest U.S. Air Force base in the region, but did not immediately receive any comment.
Hiroyuki Miyazawa, Japan’s vice defense minister told the Japanese media that the incident involved a CV-22 Osprey from the U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base.
“In light of this incident, the minister of defense has asked the relevant departments to cooperate with the Japan Coast Guard to confirm whether or not there are any victims and to do their utmost to rescue them,” he said.
Asked why he’d not called the incident a crash Miyazawa said: “The U.S. side explained to us that the pilot did his best until the very end, so we’re using the term ‘emergency water landing.’”
The MV-22 Osprey is a hybrid aircraft famous for its unique “tiltrotor” flight system, which allows it to take off and land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane.
There have been a number of fatal accidents involving the aircraft in recent years.