SENDAI – The bodies of three crew members from the Air Self-Defense Force’s Blue Impulse aerobatic flight team were found Wednesday morning near the wreckage of two planes that went missing Tuesday over Miyagi Prefecture.
Police had been searching for the two aircraft since they disappeared from radar Tuesday morning over the Pacific Ocean.
Miyagi Prefectural Police said the three charred bodies were found in the mountains near the wreckage of one of the missing T-4 trainers in the town of Oshika. A rescue team also found fragments of its companion plane on the south side of Mount Taka in the town.
The site where the planes were found was only 4.5 km away from Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa Nuclear Plant, and ASDF officials said they are investigating the possibility they collided in midair.
The ASDF identified the bodies as Maj. Mikio Abe, 37, who was flying solo, and Maj. Miki Ichishima and Capt. Tomohiro Umekawa, both 35.
It was the fifth ASDF crash since last August, when eight service members were killed. Five are still listed as missing.
The two T-4s disappeared from radar at around 10:20 a.m. Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean some 25 km southeast of the ASDF’s Matsushima base in Miyagi Prefecture, ASDF officials said. They were returning to the base after a training session involving four other jets.
The six jets took off from the base at around 9:50 a.m. and trained over the ocean near Mount Kinka, located on an island off the Oshika Peninsula, before heading back.
The ASDF, the Japan Coast Guard and Miyagi Prefectural Police resumed intense search operations early Wednesday, focusing on the mountains and forests of the Oshika Peninsula and waters east of the peninsula.
Local municipalities plan to press the ASDF to refrain from holding training flights near nuclear facilities.
C-1 debris, body found
A body believed to be one of the five missing crew members of an Air Self-Defense Force transport jet has been found on the seabed of the Sea of Japan where the plane crashed last Wednesday.
Air Staff Office officials said a remote-controlled camera showed the lower part of a body clad in flight gear and shoes on the 250-meter-deep seabed off Shimane Prefecture, as well as the debris of the C-1 transport plane.
The ASDF has not begun recovery operations, they said.
The missing five have been identified as Maj. Ryuichi Kawanishi, 41, 1st Lt. Ai Fujimoto, 26, Master Sgt. Mitsuyuki Sakemoto, 39, Staff Sgt. Junichi Goto, 31, and Master Sgt. Toshitaka Iwatani, 47. Kawanishi was the captain of the plane and Fujimoto the copilot.