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Japan: 1 dead, 7 missing in military helicopter crash

April 21, 2024

Two helicopters crashed into the sea during military training. The Japanese Defense Ministry was analyzing the cause of the incident, amid suspicion that the two aircraft crashed off the Izu Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

This undated photo released by and taken from the official website of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, shows a SH-60K chopper
The two SH-60K choppers from Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force were carrying four crew eachImage: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force via AP

Two Japanese military helicopters crashed into the Pacific Ocean late on Saturday, with one crew member confirmed dead and seven others still missing.

The two helicopters were conducting training "to counter submarines at night" when the incident occurred, said Defense Minister Minoru Kihara.

What do we know about the crash?

The helicopters were training off the Izu Islands when communication was lost with them.

Rescuers "spotted what are believed to be part of the aircraft in the sea, and we believe that the two helicopters crashed," Kihara said. He added that the flight recorders were retrieved and the ministry was analyzing the cause of the incident, "including possibility of a collision between the two."

Fragments believed to be from both choppers were found in the same areas, suggesting the two were flying close to each other, Kihara said.

He added that only one distress call was heard, another sign the two helicopters were near the same place, as their signals use the same frequency and thus could not be differentiated.

In April 2023, a Japanese army helicopter carrying 10 people crashed off Miyako island in southern Okinawa, leaving behind no survivors.

Japan has recently upped its military buildup and deterrence in the southwestern Japanese islands in the Pacific and East China Sea. It comes as China's military activities grow more assertive in the region.

rmt/wd (AFP, AP, Reuters)