One dead and seven missing as two Japanese navy helicopters crash into the Pacific Ocean

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The Japanese defence minister has announced that only one crew member was recovered from the crash - but died shortly afterwards.

Japan’s defence minister Minoru Kihara has announced that two Japanese navy helicopters have crashed in the Pacific Ocean, leaving one person dead and seven more missing. It is believed that the two SH-60 K helicopters, both part of the Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSFD) may have collided in mid-air. 

Kihara confirmed to the press that the MSDF lost contact with both aircraft late on Saturday night near Torishima Island, about 370 miles south of Tokyo. Eight warships and five MSDF aircraft have been dispatched to assist in the search.

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The helicopters, carrying a total of eight crew members, lost contact above the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo during a night-time training flight, which is believed to have been practising anti-submarine drills at the time. 

One crew member was successfully recovered from the ocean; however, that person died shortly afterwards.

Only one distress call was heard—another sign that the two helicopters were near the same place because their signals use the same frequency and could not be differentiated, Mr Kihara said.

Torishima Island is located to the south of Japan's mainland, with the area frequently used for MSDF drills (Credit: Google Maps)Torishima Island is located to the south of Japan's mainland, with the area frequently used for MSDF drills (Credit: Google Maps)
Torishima Island is located to the south of Japan's mainland, with the area frequently used for MSDF drills (Credit: Google Maps) | Google Maps

The rescuers have recovered several items related to the helicopter crash. These include a flight data recorder, a blade from each helicopter, and some fragments that are believed to be from both choppers. The debris recovered so far suggests that the two SH-60Ks were flying close to each other while officials will analyze the flight data to determine the cause of the crash.

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Defence officials confirmed that the late-night training involved only the Japanese navy. No foreign aircraft or warship had been spotted in the area prior to the incident.

Rescuers continue to search for the seven still missing.

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