OSAKA (Kyodo) The Japan Coast Guard helicopter that fatally crashed Wednesday in the Seto Inland Sea had been on a demonstration flight for a group of apprentice lawyers who were on a boat nearby, the 6th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters said Thursday.
The new explanation provided by the coast guard contradicts its previous account that the chopper had deviated from its patrol flight plan to investigate a disabled ship before power lines and going down off Sanagi Island in Kagawa Prefecture.
People who pass the bar exam are given training by various legal authorities for a certain period before they take legal jobs, and the coast guard, which has a similar role to prosecutors, also provides an opportunity to show its activities to apprentice lawyers.
According to the 6th regional headquarters, the chopper was to make two demo flights Wednesday. It went down after the first one.
Earlier, the headquarters had said the crew of the Bell 412EP helicopter reported it was investigating a disabled ship about 10 minutes before the 3:10 p.m. crash, suggesting the aircraft may have descended to take photos. Four of the five crew members aboard were killed and one remains missing.
The chopper apparently severed power lines running from Sanagi to a smaller island about 600 meters offshore, causing a blackout.
The power lines stretch roughly 1.2 km and range in height from 100 to 50 meters, indicating the chopper was flying quite low.
The Japan Coast Guard and Kagawa Prefectural Police are investigating why the aircraft was flying so low and may pursue a case of professional negligence resulting in death.
The search for missing crew member Satoshi Odake, 56, is continuing.
Investigators from the Japan Transport Safety Board, an investigative arm of the Land, Transport, Infrastructure and Tourism Ministry, is also looking into the accident.
Pilot Masahito Fujimoto, 41, had submitted a plan to fly from the helicopter’s base in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, over the Seto Inland Sea and to turn around above Takami Island about 3 km southeast of Sanagi and take nearly the same route back, the ministry sources said.
The last communication with the helicopter, believed sent by communications officer Mitsuo Matsui, 55, came at 3:01 p.m. and said the helicopter was investigating a disabled ship at Takami Island.
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