TOKYO, Nov 29 (Reuters) – (This November 29 story has been corrected after a clarification from the Yakushima Fisheries Cooperative Society that one person, not three, had been found in paragraph 5)
A US military plane carrying eight people crashed into the sea in Japan on Wednesday, killing at least one crew member.
The US military said that the accident occurred during a routine training mission off the shores of Yakushima Island, about 1,040 kilometers southwest of the capital, Tokyo.
“The crew’s conditions are unknown at this time,” a statement from the US Air Forces Special Operations Command said.
The Japan Coast Guard said what appeared to be debris from the V-22 Osprey, and one person later confirmed dead, was found about three kilometers from shore.
A representative of the Yakushima Fisheries Association initially said that fishing boats in the area had found three people in the surrounding waters, but later clarified that only one person had been found.
A local government spokesman said another Osprey plane believed to be traveling with the crashed plane landed safely at the island’s airport on Wednesday afternoon.
The United States has more than 50,000 American troops in Japan, many of them on the strategically important southwestern islands of Okinawa, amid increasing Chinese military aggression around neighboring Taiwan.
Media reported that the accident occurred shortly before three o’clock in the afternoon (0600 GMT), with witnesses saying that the left engine of the plane apparently caught fire as it was approaching the airport to make an emergency landing, despite clear weather and light winds.
The plane was part of an Okinawa-based unit trained to transport and supply special operations forces, according to the US military.
Japan, which also operates Osprey aircraft, said on Wednesday that it had asked the US military to investigate the incident.
The Osprey, jointly developed by Boeing and Bell Helicopter, can fly like a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft, and is operated by the US Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Japan Self-Defense Forces.
The deployment of hybrid aircraft in Japan has been controversial, with critics saying they are prone to accidents. The US military and Japan say the area is safe.
In August, a US Osprey plane crashed off the coast of northern Australia while transporting soldiers during a routine military exercise, killing three US Marines.
Another plane fell into the ocean off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa in December 2016, prompting the United States to temporarily ground the plane.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Tim Kelly, Kantaro Komiya, Idris Ali and Phil Stewart – Prepared by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Writing by John Geddy. Edited by David Dolan, Gerry Doyle, Nick Macfie and Debba Babington
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