TOKYO – One of the two Marines, rescued after the collision of a pair of airborne warplanes, has died, military officials said Thursday as rescue teams continued to search for five people still missing.
The accident happened as their boats were refueling some 200 miles from Japan, US and Japanese officials said.
The planes, a KC-130 refueling plane carrying five crew members and an F / A-18 fighter plane carrying two, “made contact” and crashed into the sea at around 1:42 a.m. Thursday (11 a.m. 42 ET Wednesday), said Yoshihide Suga, chief secretary of the Japanese cabinet.
Japan’s Defense Ministry initially said two of the seven Marines had been rescued. But one of those two has since died, Navy spokesman Captain Chris Harrison said.
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The plane was launched from Marine Corps Air Base in Iwakuni, Japan, during a regular training exercise, the Marines said. Suga said the Department of Defense has requested more information from the United States.
The crash is the latest in a recent series of accidents involving the U.S. military deployed in and around Japan.
Last month, a US Navy F / A-18 Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea southwest of Okinawa Island, southern Japan, although its two pilots were rescued safely. In mid-October, an MH-60 Seahawk also belonging to Ronald Reagan crashed off the Philippine Sea shortly after takeoff, leaving around ten non-fatal injuries.
More than 50,000 US troops are based in Japan under the bilateral security pact.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty paid tribute to the wounded and missing and thanked Japan for its help.
“I am encouraged that the United States and Japan have worked so closely together, and I want to thank the Japanese Self-Defense Force for immediately joining us in a tightly integrated search and rescue exercise. for those involved, ”he said.
He then highlighted the ties between the two countries and the role that US forces play in ensuring the security of the region.
The Marines “risk their lives every day to protect Japan and to protect this region, and sometimes they pay the heaviest price,” he said. “I want to stress that this security alliance that we have is essential and it is moving in a very positive direction.”
Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo; Alex Johnson of Los Angeles; Doha Madani from New York; Hans Nichols and Mosheh Gains of Washington.
Doha madani, Hans nichols, Mosheh wins, Associated press and David K. Li contributed.