A U.S. military Osprey aircraft crashed in waters off Yakushima Island in southwestern Japan, with one man found near the accident site confirmed dead, the Japan Coast Guard said Wednesday.
The CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, which was assigned to the Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and used by the U.S. Air Force, disappeared from radar at around 2:40 p.m. carrying eight people, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
File photo taken in Naha in March 2023 shows a U.S. military Osprey aircraft. (Kyodo)
The Japan Coast Guard, which has dispatched patrol vessels and aircraft to search the area, said it has confirmed what appeared to be a large amount of debris from the Osprey floating on the sea.
The accident site is believed to be around 1 kilometer east of Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture.
There have been reports that the Osprey’s left engine caught fire as the aircraft fell, according to the Kagoshima prefectural government.
The Osprey had planned to fly from the U.S. military base in Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, to the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture, the coast guard said.
“Our top priority is to save lives,” Japan’s top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference, noting that the government was confirming the details of the crash.
The coast guard initially received an emergency call about the crash around 2:45 p.m.
A separate Osprey believed to have been flying alongside the crashed aircraft landed at Yakushima Airport around 3:25 p.m., according to the Kagoshima prefectural government.
Ospreys, capable of taking off and landing like a helicopter but cruising like a plane, have a track record of accidents and mishaps both in Japan and abroad.
In 2016, an MV-22, the variant used by the U.S. Marine Corps, crash-landed off Okinawa. Crashes in Australia in 2017 and August this year resulted in three fatalities each.