• Kyodo

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One of the four people who died in Saturday’s plane crash in the Northern Alps was still alive after the accident and used a cellphone to call for help, the company that owned the aircraft said.

“Help! May body is trapped and I can’t move,” New Central Airservice quoted Katsuki Kasai, one of the four people aboard, as saying. The 21-year-old was in the back seat when their single-engine Cessna 172P went down in heavy fog in the town of Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture.

He called at around 2:50 p.m., about 30 minutes after the plane took off from Toyama Airport for the short training flight to Nagano. When an employee answered, Kasai repeated “Help!”

After identifying himself, Kasai said the plane was in snow and that the two occupants in front were unconscious, indicating a third person had also survived. Later, after he called the police, he called the company again to ask for rescue at around 3:15 p.m., the air service said at a news conference on Sunday.

The others killed in the crash were identified as pilot Takao Kinoshita, 57, Eiji Oguchi, 48, and Kazuki Higuchi, 22.

Search parties were launched to find the plane after the police were called, but the thick fog prevented them from locating the plane, and the caller made no further contact.

On Sunday, the plane’s wreckage was found at an elevation of 2,300 meters in thick snow.

Later Sunday, family members of the four rushed to the hospital in Toyama where the bodies were taken. After all four were confirmed dead, the bodies were handed over to the Toyama Prefectural Police, which briefed the families about the accident.

No one said a word as they were escorted to the police station, but they were heard sobbing from inside.

“We tried very hard to search through the area to find them. But we had to call it off (due to the fog),” a senior police official said.

Also on Sunday, Koichiro Hayashi, president of Maruyasu Kikai Co. in Nagano Prefecture, where three of the four worked, held a news conference to address their deaths.

“I had prayed for their survival, but it turned out to be the worst-case scenario. I cannot find any words to say when I think about their families,” Hayashi said.

Police will conduct autopsies on Monday to determine the cause of death and examine the soundness of the flight plan.

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