Searchers Find Blades From Crashed Japanese Helicopters

2 Japanese navy helicopters crashed in Pacific Ocean during training
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 21, 2024 7:41 AM CDT
Searchers Find Blades From Crashed Japanese Helicopters
A Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel sails near the site of a crash in the Pacific Ocean Sunday, April 21, 2024.   (Kyodo News via AP)

Two Japanese navy helicopters carrying eight crew members crashed into the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo during nighttime training in a possible collision, leaving one dead while rescuers on Sunday searched for seven others missing, the defense minister said. The two SH-60K choppers from the Maritime Self-Defense Force were carrying four crew each and lost contact late Saturday near Torishima island, about 370 miles south of Tokyo, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but officials believe the two helicopters "highly likely" collided before crashing into the water, Kihara said. Rescuers recovered a flight data recorder, a blade from each helicopter, and fragments believed to be from both choppers in the same area, signs that the two SH-60Ks were flying close to each other, Kihara said. The BBC reports one crewmember was pulled from the water but has been confirmed dead. The navy chief of staff, Adm. Ryo Sakai, said training involving the SH-60s will be suspended until the cause of the crash is determined and preventive measures are adopted, reports the AP.

The twin-engine, multi-mission helicopters developed by Sikorsky and known as Seahawks were modified and produced in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. They were on a nighttime anti-submarine training exercise, Kihara said. One lost contact at 10:38pm and sent an automatic emergency signal a minute later. Only one distress signal, called an emergency locator transmitter, was heard—another sign the helicopters were near the same place, because their signals use the same frequency and cannot be differentiated, Kihara said.

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Saturday's training was part of routine drills involving warships, submarines, and Seahawk helicopters, the Japanese navy chief of staff said. During training, a number of helicopters hover together as they lower sonars into the water to detect submarines. Search and rescue efforts for the missing crew were expanded Sunday with the deployment of 12 warships and seven aircraft. Japan coast guard patrol boats and planes also joined the operation. US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel offered his country's help with the search and rescue.

(More helicopter crash stories.)

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