2 US warplanes crash off Japan; 1 dead, 5 missing

One of two crew members recovered after two U.S. warplanes collided and crashed off Japan’s coast early Thursday is dead and five others remain missing, the U.S. military said.

The Marine Corps said the other recovered crew member was in fair condition. It said an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet and a KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft collided during training at about 2 a.m. after taking off from their base in Iwakuni, near Hiroshima. The seven crew members included two in the F/A-18 and five in the KC-130.

The Marines said in a statement that the two planes were involved in routine training, including aerial refueling, but that it was still investigating what was happening when the accident occurred. The crash took place 320 kilometers (200 miles) off the coast, according to the U.S. military. Japanese officials said it occurred closer to the coast, about 100 kilometers (60 miles), and that’s where the search and rescue mission found the two crew members.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, which dispatched aircraft and vessels to join in the search operation, said Japanese rescuers found one of the crew from the fighter jet in stable condition. The Marines said the crew member was taken to a hospital on the base in Iwakuni and was in fair condition, but did not provide any other details. Japan’s coast guard also joined the search.

President Donald tweeted on Thursday that his thoughts and prayers are with the Marine Corps crew members involved in the collision. He thanked the U.S. Forces in Japan for their “immediate response and rescue efforts” and said “Whatever you need, we are here for you.”

The crash is the latest in recent series of accidents involving the U.S. military deployed to and near Japan. Last month, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea southwest of Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, though its two pilots were rescued safely. In mid-October, a MH-60 Seahawk also belonging to the Ronald Reagan crashed off the Philippine Sea shortly after takeoff, causing non-fatal injuries to a dozen sailors. More than 50,000 U.S. troops are based in Japan under a bilateral security pact.q

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