National

Wreck of salvaged MSDF chopper off Aomori yields two bodies; search for fourth sailor continues

Kyodo

Two bodies have been found in the wreckage of a Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter that was raised from the seabed after crashing off northeastern Japan in August, the Maritime Self-Defense Force said Friday.

The MSDF confirmed the deaths of Lt. Cmdr. Yuki Sato, 36, and Ensign Hiroaki Tajima, 24, who were the captain and co-pilot of the SH-60J helicopter. Their bodies were found shortly after midnight Thursday after the wreckage was recovered and placed on a salvage barge.

The helicopter had a crew of four, one of whom was rescued after the accident. The MSDF is continuing to search for Petty Officer 2nd Class Hiroki Uchino, 36.

The SH-60J plunged into the Sea of Japan off Aomori Prefecture on Aug. 26 during a night landing and takeoff drill. The MSDF concluded the crash was caused by human error as the crew lost control of the aircraft while fixing one of its navigation systems.

According to the MSDF’s Ominato headquarters in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, the recovery work began earlier Thursday after an unmanned underwater surveillance vehicle on Oct. 16 found the helicopter lying on the seabed about 2,600 meters below the surface, near the area where it crashed.

The helicopter, which took off from the MSDF destroyer Setogiri at 10:33 p.m., soon lost radar contact about 90 km west-southwest of Cape Tappi and crashed.