NAGANO – All nine members of a rescue squad aboard a helicopter that crashed during a drill in Nagano Prefecture over the weekend have died, it was confirmed Monday.
The final six members of the team, found Monday morning, were confirmed dead later in the day.
Three members were confirmed dead soon after the helicopter crashed Sunday on a snowy mountain in Nagano Prefecture.
The nine victims were identified by local police as pilot Masaji Iwata, 56, mechanic Ryota Shimizu, 45, and firefighters Tadahiro Takizawa, 47, Naoto Ikuma, 35, Michiaki Koda, 40, Wataru Ito, 35, Noritoshi Takashima, 37, Masaharu Daikuhara, 42, and Hiroshi Oguchi, 42.
Iwata, who joined the Nagano Disaster Prevention Air Corps in 1997, was a veteran pilot with over 5,100 hours of flight time.
Rescuers resumed searching for survivors at around 8 a.m. Monday and recovered the bodies of two other crew members who had been seen Sunday trapped in the wreckage. They found the bodies of four more underneath the aircraft.
A team of about 100 people were deployed by police, firefighters and the Self-Defense Forces to take part in the effort.
The Bell 412EP helicopter, operated by the Nagano Prefectural Government, was carrying seven firefighters, a pilot and a mechanic, all male, officials said.
They were scheduled to conduct a drill for rescuing mountain climbers, with members of the team descending from the helicopter on ropes.
Investigators from the Transport Safety Board, an arm of the transport ministry, will look into the cause of the crash after conducting an on-site inspection.
The helicopter took off from Matsumoto Airport in Nagano Prefecture at around 1:30 p.m. Sunday and, according to a flight plan filed with the ministry, was scheduled to land at a heliport on the Takabochi plateau in Shiojiri at 1:53 p.m.
The helicopter failed to make radio contact as scheduled upon landing, prompting the prefectural government to request a police search at around 2:37 p.m.
The helicopter was found crashed around 3:10 p.m. Sunday near 1,929-meter Mount Hachibuse, which straddles the cities of Matsumoto and Okaya.
A local weather office said conditions at the time did not appear to have affected the flight.
The helicopter took off with sufficient fuel to continue flying for around 90 minutes, and no signs of abnormality in the aircraft were detected before takeoff, according to the transport ministry and the prefecture.
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