Two Japanese helicopters crash during drill One dead, seven missing

Two Japanese helicopters crash during drill One dead, seven missing

Two Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters crashed during a drill in the Pacific late Saturday, leaving at least one of the eight crew members dead, with the other seven still missing, Japan's defense minister said Sunday.

The two aircraft, which crashed in waters around 270 kilometers east of Torishima Island in the Izu Island chain during a nighttime anti-submarine drill in the area, are believed to have collided with each other, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters. The Izu island chain is located south of Tokyo, reports.

The SH-60K helicopters, each carrying four crew members, lost contact at 10:38 p.m. and 11:04 p.m., respectively, with the MSDF receiving an emergency signal at 10:39 p.m., according to the MSDF.

Two flight recorders were discovered "at extremely close locations," while what is thought to be parts of the two helicopters' rotor blades and other aircraft debris was also found during a post-accident search, Kihara said.

Following the incident, the MSDF suspended all training involving SH-60K helicopters and set up a panel to investigate the incident, according to Adm. Ryo Sakai, chief of staff of the MSDF.

One of the choppers belonged to Komatsushima Air Base in Tokushima Prefecture, while the other was based at Omura Air Base in Nagasaki Prefecture.

The cause of the incident is still unknown but the ministry will do its utmost to search for and rescue those who are missing, Kihara said.

Sakai also said there are no signs that other nations were connected to the accident.

With a length of 19.8 meters and a weight of 10.9 tons, the MSDF's SH-60K can carry up to four people and has its own anti-submarine system, modeled after the U.S. Navy's SH-60 chopper.

In April last year, a UH-60JA helicopter of the Ground Self-Defense Force crashed into the sea in Okinawa Prefecture, leaving 10 people dead.