U.S. Osprey crashes off Japanese coast; 1 dead, 5 missing

A U.S. Marines' MV-22 Osprey takes part in the joint exercise "Iron Fist 23" with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Hijyudai Maneuver Area in Oita-Prefecture, Japan on February 18. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Officials confirmed that one person died and the fate of five others on board remained a mystery after a U.S. military Osprey aircraft crashed off the southern coast of Japan early Wednesday.

The crash of the hybrid aircraft occurred near Yakushima, an island about 45 miles south of the Kagoshima region on the southern main island of Kyushu.

One person who was "unconscious and was not breathing" was recovered from the sea and transported to a rescue center, where they were given CPR but was later pronounced dead.

The local Japanese Coast Guard initially said eight crew members were onboard the Osprey but later revised the total to six. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

The Coast Guard said search operations, which included six patrol vessels and two helicopters, went on through Wednesday. Witnesses spotted a large amount of debris apparently from the Osprey in waters southeast of Yakushima Airport.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said an eyewitness reported seeing the aircraft's left engine on fire before it went down about 2:47 p.m. local time. The Coast Guard said the Osprey disappeared from its radar screen about five minutes before that.

The Coast Guard said it dispatched a patrol boat and rescue aircraft to the site of the crash.

This is the latest in a series of crashes involving the Osprey, which has a checkered past of mishaps and fatal crashes.

In August, three U.S. Marines were killed and several others were critically injured when an Osprey crashed during a training exercise in Australia.

Five U.S. Marines died when an MV-22B Osprey crashed during training exercises in the desert near Glamis, Calif., in 2022. And four American soldiers were killed when an Osprey crashed during NATO training exercises in Norway that same year.

The Osprey is best known for its ability to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter but, due to its tilt rotor propeller engines, it is also capable of cruising at high speeds like a turboprop aircraft with conventional wings.

Its unique and flexible design has come under scrutiny and critics have speculated that the quirky nature of the Osprey may be largely responsible for the relatively high number of crashes.

The Osprey has had a history of mechanical and operational problems since it was introduced in the 1980s.