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Japanese Navy helicopters crash in the Pacific Ocean, leaving 1 dead, 7 missing

Updated on: 21 April,2024 02:13 PM IST  |  Tokyo
mid-day online correspondent |

Two Japanese naval helicopters crashed near Torishima island. Each SH-60K chopper was carrying four crew members and lost communication late Saturday.

Japanese Navy helicopters crash in the Pacific Ocean, leaving 1 dead, 7 missing

Representative Image

Two Japanese naval helicopters carrying eight crew members fell into the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo during a nighttime training mission, killing one and leaving seven others missing, according to the country's defence minister.

The crash of Japanese naval helicopters involved two SH-60K choppers from the Maritime Self Defence Force, each carrying four crew members, that lost communication late Saturday near Torishima island, about 600 kilometres (370 miles) south of Tokyo. The cause of the disaster was not immediately established, but Defence Minister Minoru Kihara suspected that the helicopters may have clashed before plunging into the lake, stated a report by the Associated Press. 

According to the AP report, the MSDF initiated rescue efforts immediately, deploying eight warships and five aircraft to look for the missing crew members. Rescuers found flight data recorders, helicopter blades, and parts from both helicopters near the accident scene, indicating that the helicopters were flying close together before the tragedy.

The SH-60K helicopters, modified and produced in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, were conducting nighttime anti-submarine training when the incident happened. Only one distress call was heard, indicating that the two helicopters were close together because their signals could not be distinguished, the report added. 

The report further stated that Japan, under its 2022 security strategy, has been strengthening its military capabilities in the southwestern Japanese islands to counter threats from China's assertive military activities. Saturday's training exercise was solely conducted by the Japanese navy and was not part of a multinational exercise, according to defence officials.

This incident comes a year after a Ground Self-Defence Force UH-60 Blackhawk crashed off the southwestern Japanese island of Miyako, resulting in the death of all 10 crew members. Additionally, in January 2022, an Air Self-Defence F-15 fighter jet crashed off the northcentral coast of Japan, killing two crew members, the report added. 

While no weather advisories were issued in the area at the time of the crash, investigations into the cause of the incident are ongoing, the AP report further stated.

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