Names of Crew Members Aboard Crashed MSDF Choppers Released

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The SH-60K helicopter of the Maritime Self-Defense Force that went missing after a crash. (From the website of the Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Tokyo, April 23 (Jiji Press) — The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force on Tuesday released the names of eight crew members aboard two MSDF patrol helicopters that crashed off a remote Tokyo island on Saturday during a nighttime exercise.

The MSDF said it has identified a crew member whose body was recovered at the crash site as Cmdr. Yuki Nishihata, co-pilot of one of the two SH-60K helicopters.

The MSDF also released the names of the seven other crew members who remain unaccounted for.

“It is extremely regrettable that we lost one member and have seven other members missing who took part in the training with extremely high skills,” Adm. Ryo Sakai, MSDF chief of staff, told a press conference. “We will continue to do our best in the search operations,” he added.

One helicopter belongs to the MSDF’s Omura air base in the southwestern prefecture of Nagasaki and the other is based in the MSDF’s Komatsushima air base in the western prefecture of Tokushima.

The MSDF believes that the two helicopters are highly likely to have collided in the air and crashed, based on the fact that they disappeared during the night training to detect submarines and their flight recorders were found in close proximity.

Sakai said the training was more advanced than a normal exercise. “It was closer to actual combat and involved complex operations such as cooperation between participating helicopters and ships,” he said.

The aircraft are believed to have sunk to the seabed at a depth of about 5,500 meters, and the MSDF is sending an oceanographic vessel capable of examining seabed topography to the site.