TOKYO, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Three people have been found but their condition is unknown after a U.S. military plane carrying eight people went down in the sea off western Japan on Wednesday, fishermen said.
The Coast Guard said it sent patrol boats and aircraft to the area where a tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey crashed on Yakushima Island.
Fishing boats in the area spotted three people in the surrounding waters, a local fishing cooperative representative said.
The crash happened near the island’s airport, where another Osprey successfully landed on Wednesday afternoon, a provincial government spokesman said.
A spokesman said US forces in the region were still gathering information.
The crash happened just before 3 p.m. (0600 GMT), with witnesses saying the plane’s left engine caught fire during descent, media reported.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the plane disappeared from radar around 2:40 p.m. local time.
Capable of flying both as a helicopter and as a fixed-wing aircraft, the aircraft is operated by the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and the Japan Defense Forces.
The use of the Osprey in Japan is controversial, with critics saying it is prone to accidents. The US military and Japan say it is safe.
In August, a US Osprey crashed off the coast of northern Australia while transporting troops during a routine military exercise, killing three US Marines.
Another crash landed in the sea off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa in December 2016, prompting a provisional US military grounding of the plane.
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Tim Kelly and Satoshi Tsukiyama; By John Geddy; Editing by David Dolan, Gerry Doyle and Nick MacPhee
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