One of the crew members was declared missing.
A U.S. military helicopter crashed on Monday at a U.S. base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, and one of its crew members was missing, Japan’s Defence Ministry said.
Three of the four crew members of the HH-60 helicopter survived, and one was taken to hospital, said the ministry, which was informed of the accident by the U.S. military.
The helicopter burst into flames at Camp Hansen, local media reported. Video footage on broadcaster NHK showed a fire on a mountainside in Ginoza village, where the base is located.
No civilians were reported to have been injured and no damage occurred outside the base, Okinawa police said.
The U.S. Kadena Air Base on the island said at least four people were on board and the Kadena-based helicopter was conducting a local training mission, the Kyodo News agency reported.
“We take safety in our operations very seriously,” an unnamed senior U.S. military official in Japan was quoted by Kyodo as saying.
“That is why we conduct extensive investigations to learn what happened so that we can make our operations as absolutely safe as possible.”
Okinawans have long been critical of the U.S. military presence on the island and crimes committed by U.S. troops stationed there.
They have also questioned the safety of U.S. military aircraft, particularly the tilt-rotor Osprey.
Monday’s crash came two days after two MV-22 Osprey aircraft arrived on Okinawa, 1,600 Km south-west of Tokyo, amid fierce local opposition.
The two joined 12 tilt-rotor aircraft already deployed at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to replace aging CH-46 helicopters.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said Monday’s crash was “regrettable” and called for a thorough investigation.
“As any crash of aircraft could be a dangerous accident, proper preventive measures are important,” Onodera said.
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