Divers find wreckage and remains from Osprey aircraft that crashed off Japan

4 December 2023, 12:14

A US military CV-22 Osprey takes off from a base in western Japan
Japan US Osprey Crash. Picture: PA

The CV-22 Osprey was carrying eight American crew when it crashed off Yakushima Island during a training mission last Wednesday.

Divers have discovered wreckage and the remains of crew members from a US Air Force Osprey aircraft that crashed off south-western Japan last week, the Air Force announced on Monday.

The CV-22 Osprey was carrying eight American crew when it crashed off Yakushima Island during a training mission last Wednesday.

The body of one victim was recovered and identified earlier.

The Air Force Special Operations Command said two of the five newly located remains have been recovered but their identities have yet to be determined.

The joint US-Japanese search operation is still working to recover the remains of three other crew members from the wreckage, it said.

The search is continuing for the two people who are still missing, it added.

Japan US Osprey Crash
Members of the Japanese Coast Guard carry debris believed to be from the crashed Osprey (Kyodo News/AP)

“The main priority is bringing the airmen home and taking care of their family members. Support to, and the privacy of, the families and loved ones impacted by this incident remains Afsoc’s top priority,” it said in a statement.

On Saturday, the US military identified the one confirmed victim as Air Force Staff Sergeant Jacob Galliher, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

On Monday, divers from the Japanese navy and US military spotted what appeared to be the front section of the Osprey, along with possibly five of the missing crew members, Japan’s NHK public television and other media reported.

Japanese navy officials declined to confirm the reports, saying they could not release details without consent from the US.

The US-made Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster, like an aeroplane, during flight.

Ospreys have been involved in a number of crashes, including in Japan, where they are used at US and Japanese military bases, and the latest incident has rekindled safety concerns.

Japan has suspended all flights of its own fleet of 14 Ospreys.

Japanese officials said they have asked the US military to resume Osprey flights only after ensuring their safety.

The Pentagon said no such formal request has been made and that the US military is continuing to fly 24 MV-22s, the Marine version of Ospreys, deployed on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

Japan US Osprey Crash
A Japanese coast guard vessel and a helicopter carry out a search and rescue operation around the crash site (Kyodo News/AP)

On Sunday, pieces of wreckage that Japan’s coast guard and local fishing boats have collected were handed over to the US military for examination, coast guard officials said. Japan’s military said debris it has collected will also be handed over to the US.

Coast guard officials said the recovered pieces of wreckage include parts of the aircraft and an inflatable life raft but nothing related to the cause of the crash, such as an engine. Local witnesses reported seeing fire coming from one of the engines.

Under the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, Japanese authorities are not given the right to seize or investigate American military property unless the US decides otherwise. That means it will be practically impossible for Japan to independently investigate the cause of the accident.

The agreement has often made Japanese investigations difficult in criminal cases involving American service members on Okinawa and elsewhere, and has been criticised as unequal by rights activists and others, including Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who has called for a revision.

By Press Association

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