A US military aircraft carrying six people crashed into the sea off western Japan on Wednesday, killing at least one crew member and at least two others being rescued from the water.
Japan’s coast guard said it found debris from the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey and a person later confirmed dead about 3 kilometers (2 miles) off Yakushima Island.
Fishing boats in the area found three people in the surrounding waters, a spokesman for a local fishing cooperative said, adding that their condition was unknown.
Another Osprey landed safely at the island’s airport on Wednesday afternoon around the time of the crash, a local government spokesman said.
US forces in the area were still gathering intelligence, a spokesman said.
The US has about 54,000 US troops in Japan, many in the strategically important southern island chain, amid growing Chinese military assertions in the South China Sea.
The crash happened just before 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) with witnesses saying the plane’s left engine appeared to be on fire as it approached an airport for an emergency landing, despite clear weather and light winds, media reported.
The Coast Guard corrected the number of people on board the plane to six from eight originally reported.
Yakushima is located in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, about 1,040 km (650 mi) southwest of the capital Tokyo, and is known for its World Heritage-listed wildlife and forests.
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Japan, which also has Osprey jets, said on Wednesday it did not plan to ground the plane but asked the US military to investigate the crash.
Developed jointly by Boeing ( BA.N ) and Bell Helicopter, the Osprey can fly as both a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft and is operated by the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.
The Osprey’s deployment in Japan has been controversial, with critics saying it is prone to accidents. The US military and Japan say it is safe.
In August, a US Osprey crashed off the coast of Northern Australia while transporting troops during a routine military exercise, killing three US Marines.
Another crash landed in the ocean off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa in December 2016, prompting a temporary US military grounding of the aircraft.
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