(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he was “heartbroken” over the loss of eight US service members likely killed in the crash of an Osprey military aircraft last week off a Japanese island.
The bodies of three of the eight airmen aboard the Osprey aircraft have been recovered, the US Air Force Special Operations Command said in a statement late Tuesday. Another three have been found and are being recovered, and two bodies are missing. Operations in conjunction with Japan have shifted from rescue to recovery, meaning finding survivors is unlikely, it said.
“Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who lost a loved one in this terrible accident,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House that included a mention of his wife. He also thanked Japan for its help in the rescue and recovery efforts.
All the families of the people involved have been notified, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a briefing. The Air Force also released a list of those killed that included pilots and flight engineers in their 20s and 30s.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered condolences in a message sent to Biden. The Japanese leader also expressed “his heartfelt gratitude” to members of US military in the country who carry out missions to maintain peace and security in Japan as well as the region, Kishida’s office said.
The accident in Japan a week ago is one of the deadliest for the tilt-rotor aircraft that has been in service for more than 20 years and involved in several fatal crashes. These have included an Osprey accident in 2000 that killed 19 Marines in Arizona. In August, three Marines were killed and five others critically injured after their aircraft went down while performing drills off Darwin, Australia.
The cause of the mishap in Japan is still under investigation. The Air Force CV-22 Osprey plunged into the sea on Nov. 29 off the island of Yakushima, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
Tokyo has called for US military forces in Japan to suspend use of the Osprey, which was made by a unit of Boeing Co. and the Bell Helicopter unit of Textron Inc., until checks can be made. The US appears to have effectively rejected the request, a step that could worsen often difficult ties between its forces and the communities hosting them.
The US has six Ospreys at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and 24 more at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the southern island of Okinawa, according to an earlier statement from Japan’s Ministry of Defense. The US continued to operate Ospreys on Okinawa after the Japanese government request on Nov. 30, the ministry said.
--With assistance from Isabel Reynolds.
(Updates with statement from Japanese prime minister in fifth paragraph.)
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