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Desperate search for crew after helicopter crash in Pacific

  • April 22, 2024
  • 2 min read
Desperate search for crew after helicopter crash in Pacific

The Japanese navy is continuing to search for seven crewmembers in the Pacific Ocean following a crash of two Mitsubishi SH-60K helicopters, based on the Sikorsky Seahawk, which killed at least one person. So far, rescuers have recovered the body of one man along with the black box flight recorder and debris. But the rest of the crew are still missing.  

“It is of utmost regret that we lost our personnel as they engaged in very tough, late-night training,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told Parliament.

It is still not known what exactly caused the crash which happened near the Izu islands, not far from the mainland. The islands are around 600km or 372 miles south of the Japanese capital Tokyo.  

Flight recorders retrieved from the two aircraft did not reveal any technical faults, the country’s defence minister Minoru Kihara said. “Firstly we do our best to save lives,” he said on Sunday, adding that the two helicopters were “doing drills to counter submarines at night.”

The two helicopters were each carrying four crew members during the drills on Saturday night. Communication with one of them was lost at 22:38 local time (14:38 BST) near the island of Torishima, according to broadcaster NHK. A minute later and an emergency signal was sent from that aircraft. Just 25 minutes later, the military learned that it had lost communication with the other in the same area. A major search operation was launched using 10 ships and five aircraft who searched the waters.

Because no other aircraft or vessel was detected in nearby waters, the navy has said that it is unlikely that another country is involved. Japan has increased its defence spending as it strengthens ties with the US, South Korea, and other Asian countries in response to China’s “growing assertiveness in the region.”

Image: JMSDF SH-60K in JASDF Iruma AB

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