A US Navy was killed and five are missing on Thursday after the collision of two US military aircraft off Japan, Japanese authorities and the US military said, adding that another Marine could have been rescued.
Marine Corps aircraft, an F / A-18 fighter with two people on board and a KC-130 refueling plane with five occupants, crashed during a refueling operation, according to the US military .
The accident occurred at 02H00 local (Wednesday 17H00 GMT) during “a regular scheduled training”, said the Marine Corps. An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances, which were not known at this stage.
The Japanese authorities and the US military had initially announced that two Marines, out of the seven occupants of both aircraft, had been rescued, but one of them died.
“One (of the two) is in good condition and the other has been declared dead by the competent medical personnel,” said the Marine Corps on Thursday evening.
“The US Army and the Japanese Self-Defense Force aircraft are conducting research (to find) those still missing. I hope all members (crews) will be rescued as soon as possible,” said the Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya.
The search will continue all night, said the Japanese agency Kyodo.
The accident occurred about 100 kilometers off Cape Muroto, located on the island of Shikoku (southwest), Takeshi Iwaya said.
The NHK public channel sent a helicopter to the scene but was unable to locate the exact location of the accident due to heavy fog and rain.
– Many incidents –
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces mobilized nine planes and three ships, while the coastguard dispatched six ships and one aircraft simultaneously to help with the rescue efforts.
US Ambassador Bill Hagerty has sent his “sincere thoughts and prayers to the families and colleagues of the missing soldiers,” while thanking Japan for its help.
The US military has nearly 50,000 troops stationed in Japan, about half of them in the southern archipelago of Okinawa, and accidents are not uncommon.
In late November, a C-2A “Greyhound” military transport aircraft with 11 people on board crashed in the Philippine Sea some 930 kilometers southwest of Okinawa.
Eight sailors were rescued shortly after the accident. The search for the three others had been abandoned after two days of mobilization.
The US military is also experiencing setbacks with its fleet of Osprey, hybrid planes takeoff horizontal or vertical, with in recent months several emergency landings and a fatal crash. These incidents fuel tensions between the two allies Washington and Tokyo and anger residents of US bases.
The Japanese Defense Minister lamented Thursday an “unfortunate” accident and promised to “take appropriate action” once the details are known.
Yoshihiko Fukuda, the mayor of Iwakuni town where the two aircraft were based, called for a temporary halt to military operations.
“I ask the government and the US military to take stringent measures to find the cause of the accident and prevent it from happening again,” insisted the elected.