Searches to locate the wreckage of an American Osprey which crashed Wednesday at sea in southwest Japan have still yielded nothing, the Japanese coast guard announced Friday as seven crew members from the device remains missing.
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Intense searches, including with divers, took place again on Friday, but they failed like the day before to find the slightest trace of the wreck and the people who were on board the craft, according to a press release from the Coast Guard released late afternoon Japanese time.
The body of only one crew member has been found so far, the same day as the accident which occurred near the Japanese island of Yakushima while the Osprey was carrying out a mission to ‘training.
Photos of the area taken after the accident showed an overturned yellow lifeboat floating on the surface and other debris including one that may be part of a propeller.
The causes of the accident also remain unknown. However, an emergency management official told AFP on Wednesday that shortly before the disappearance of the aircraft, local police had received “a report that an Osprey was spewing flames from its left engine.”
A fisherwoman told public broadcaster NHK that she saw the plane crash into the sea, sending out a huge column of water.
Reliability in question
The reliability of the Osprey, which has tilting rotors that allow it to take off and land vertically like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, has long been debated due to numerous fatal accidents.
In late August, three US Marines were killed in an Osprey crash in northern Australia. In 2022, four more died in Norway when their Osprey crashed during NATO exercises.
An American craft of the same type also crashed at sea in 2017, killing three people. And in April 2000, 19 Marines were killed when an Osprey crashed in Arizona (southwest United States).
The US military has some 54,000 troops in Japan, the majority based in the southern archipelago of Okinawa.
Various incidents and accidents involving US military aircraft in Japan have already occurred in the past, including involving Ospreys, which were viewed negatively by the Japanese population.
Japan has suspended flights of its own Ospreys since Wednesday’s accident and has asked the US military to do the same on Japanese territory as a precaution.
Deputy Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh announced in a statement on Friday that the military unit affected by the accident “was no longer carrying out any flights”.
However, it was not immediately clear how many aircraft would be affected by the suspension and for how long.
“All V-22 Ospreys in Japan can only operate after undergoing thorough safety and maintenance checks,” Ms Singh insisted. “The safety of our soldiers and the people of Japan is a top priority for the United States.”