SAITAMA (Kyodo) A rescue helicopter crashed Sunday on a mountain in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, and the five people aboard were confirmed killed, police said.
Prior to the accident, two rescue workers who had been on the aircraft, which is owned by the Saitama Prefectural Government, had been lowered to the ground to help a 55-year-old female climber who had fallen into a waterfall basin.
The five who died were pilot Akira Matsumoto, 54, copilot Shinichi Nishikawa, 32, prefectural aviation safety workers Yoshimasa Nakagomi, 42, and Kenichi Tobari, 32, and Atsushi Osawa, 33, a rescue worker from a local fire department.
The chopper, which is used for disaster prevention, had been called out to rescue a member of a climbing party on the mountain when it crashed around 11 a.m. about 4 km southwest of the Karisaka tunnel on National Route 140, according to the police and prefectural officials.
The pilots were from Honda Airways Co., which operated the 14-meter long, 13-seat AS365N3 helicopter made by Eurocopter, a wholly owned subsidiary of European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Co.
According to Honda Airways, Matsumoto was an experienced pilot, having worked for the company for more than 20 years.
There was no noticeable rain or wind in the area around Chichibu when the accident took place, though an advisory for heavy rain and lightning had been issued, according to the Kumagaya Local Meteorological Observatory.
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry said the downed aircraft was seen smoldering but had not caught on fire.
Crash scene images indicated the helicopter went down in a deep gully.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.