The US armed forces assume that all eight people on board a military plane that disappeared off the coast of Japan have died. The remains of two passengers are still being searched for, but it is unlikely that they are still alive. US President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed their condolences.
The plane disappeared off the island of Yakushima on Wednesday. The bodies of three passengers have been recovered, those of three others have been found and the other two are still missing. The search is now no longer a rescue mission but a recovery operation.
Defense Secretary Austin said more information was being gathered about the circumstances of the accident and said he would conduct a “close and thorough” investigation. Biden called it a “terrible accident,” “our entire country is in mourning for this tragic loss.”
The missing aircraft was a so-called Osprey, which can fly like a normal plane, but also as a helicopter. That type is controversial in Japan, because fatal accidents have occurred more often with it. Following this incident, the Japanese Minister of Defense asked the US whether the aircraft could remain on the ground, but it is unclear to what extent the US is prepared to do so.
In August, American soldiers were also killed when a plane of the same type crashed off the coast of Australia during an army exercise.
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