2 Bodies Likely From Missing Japanese Copter Recovered

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan Coast Guard patrol ship Harimizu, left, floats by Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine rescue vessel Chihaya, during a process believed to moving the recovered bodies on Sunday.

MIYAKOJIMA, Okinawa (Jiji Press) — Two bodies believed to be from a missing Ground Self-Defense Force helicopter were recovered from waters off an Okinawa Prefecture island on Sunday.

The two are among the five bodies found in the day’s SDF search for the helicopter and 10 people on board using deep-sea divers in waters off the Irabu Island, part of the Okinawa city of Miyakojima.

Work was underway to identify the two. The SDF will consider how to recover the remaining three bodies.

In the search, the divers visually confirmed the presence of a helicopter’s damaged fuselage on the seabed 6 kilometers north of the island at the depth of 106 meters, according to the GSDF.

They found the five bodies when they were searching in and around the main part of the helicopter, the GSDF also said.

The SDF will look for an aircraft number and personnel identification marks so that the helicopter and the bodies can be identified.

The SDF will also continue searching for the other five who were on board and the flight recorder believed to be fixed to the helicopter.

The accident occurred on the evening of April 6. The UH-60JA helicopter with Lt. Gen. Yuichi Sakamoto, head of the GSDF 8th Division, and nine others on board disappeared from radar near Miyako Island, connected to Irabu Island by a bridge, while inspecting the terrain from the sky.

The place where the fuselage and the five bodies were found is 3 to 4 kilometers away from the point where the helicopter disappeared. They may have been swept away by tidal streams.

The fuselage was found by a Maritime SDF minesweeper Thursday. An underwater camera survey then discovered human figures.

MSDF deep-sea divers prepared to conduct so-called saturation diving for on-site visual examination by adapting themselves to high water pressure using pressurization equipment.

But the operation was not conducted until Sunday because of rough weather and other problems.