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Divers have found wreckage, 5 remains from Osprey aircraft that crashed off Japan, US Air Force says

Dec 4, 2023, 5:56 AM | Updated: 5:56 am

A U.S. military CV-22 Osprey takes off from Iwakuni base, Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan, on J...

A U.S. military CV-22 Osprey takes off from Iwakuni base, Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan, on July 4, 2018. A U.S. military Osprey aircraft carrying eight people crashed Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 into the sea off southern Japan, and the Japanese coast guard is heading to the site for search and rescue operations, officials said. (Kyodo News via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. and Japanese divers have discovered wreckage and the remains of five crew members from a U.S. Air Force Osprey aircraft that crashed last week off southwestern Japan, the Air Force announced Monday.

The CV-22 Osprey carrying eight American personnel crashed last Wednesday off Yakushima island during a training mission. The body of one victim was recovered and identified earlier.

The Air Force Special Operations Command said two of the five newly located remains have been recovered but their identities have yet to be determined. The joint U.S.-Japanese search operation is still working to recover the remains of three other crew members from the wreckage, it said.

The search is continuing for the two people who are still missing, it said.

“The main priority is bringing the Airmen home and taking care of their family members. Support to, and the privacy of, the families and loved ones impacted by this incident remains AFSOC’s top priority,” it said in a statement.

The U.S. military identified the one confirmed victim as Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on Saturday.

Japanese coast guard officials say the ocean is about 30 meters (100 feet) deep around the crash site.

The U.S.-made Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster, like an airplane, during flight.

Ospreys have had a number of crashes, including in Japan, where they are used at U.S. and Japanese military bases, and the latest accident has rekindled safety concerns.

Japan has suspended all flights of its own fleet of 14 Ospreys. Japanese officials say they have asked the U.S. military to resume Osprey flights only after ensuring their safety. The Pentagon said no such formal request has been made and that the U.S. military is continuing to fly 24 MV-22s, the Marine version of Ospreys, deployed on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

On Sunday, pieces of wreckage that Japan’s coast guard and local fishing boats have collected were handed over to the U.S. military for examination, coast guard officials said. Japan’s military said debris it has collected would also be handed over to the U.S.

Coast guard officials said the recovered pieces of wreckage include some parts of the aircraft and an inflatable life raft, but nothing related to the cause of the crash, such as an engine. Local witnesses reported seeing fire coming from one of the engines.

Local fishing boats have helped in the search efforts, giving up their daily catch. Public broadcaster NHK said the Defense Ministry plans to cover their lost income and fuel.

Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, Japanese authorities are not given the right to seize or investigate U.S. military property unless the U.S. decides otherwise. That means it will be practically impossible for Japan to independently investigate the cause of the accident.

The agreement has often made Japanese investigations difficult in criminal cases involving American service members on Okinawa and elsewhere. It has been criticized as unequal by rights activists and others, including Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, who has called for a revision.

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Divers have found wreckage, 5 remains from Osprey aircraft that crashed off Japan, US Air Force says