Air Force confirms all 8 U.S. crew members were killed in Osprey crash in Japan

    TOKYO — All eight crew members aboard a U.S. military Osprey aircraft that crashed off Japan last week have been confirmed dead, the Air Force said.

    The CV-22B Osprey crashed into waters near Yakushima, an island off Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu, during a routine training mission on Nov. 29. Officials said Tuesday that search-and-rescue operations were being shifted to search-and-recovery operations, indicating that no survivors are likely to be found.

    “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and peers of all who are impacted by this mishap and loss of life,” Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, the commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said in a statement. 

    The remains of three of the airmen have been recovered and those of three others have been located and are being recovered, and the search continues for the remains of the two others, the statement said.

    Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of the eight airmen and that there would be a “rigorous and thorough” investigation.

    “The entire Department of Defense mourns alongside the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives today in the service of their country,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “My heart also goes out to those who were serving alongside these brave men and women in Japan.”

    He said the U.S. was grateful for the search-and-rescue efforts by the Japanese military and coast guard and local communities, including fishermen.

    One crew member, Staff Sgt. Jake M. Galliher, 24, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was identified last week after his body was recovered near the site of the crash.

    US airmen confirmed dead in Japan Osprey crash
    Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob “Jake” M. Galliher, 24.Yokota Air Base

    The seven other crew members were identified Tuesday as Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minnesota; Maj. Eric V. Spendlove, 36, of St. George, Utah; Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, California; Capt. Terrell K. Brayman, 32, of Pittsford, New York; Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Oviedo, Florida; Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Kennesaw, Georgia; and Senior Airman Brian K. Johnson, 32, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

    In a letter of condolence to President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed “heartfelt gratitude to the members of the U.S. Forces Japan who carry out missions day and night, far away from their hometowns and families, to maintain peace and security of Japan and the surrounding region.”

    More than 50,000 American military personnel are based in Japan, a U.S. treaty ally, more than in any other country.

    The Osprey, an American hybrid aircraft that takes off, lands and hovers like a helicopter but flies like a fixed-wing plane, has had several fatal crashes in recent years, raising safety concerns. Earlier this year, another Osprey aircraft with 23 U.S. Marines on board crashed in Australia, killing three of them.

    After the crash last week, Japan suspended flights of its own Ospreys “until the circumstances surrounding the accident become clear” and asked U.S. forces to do the same.

    Though CV-22B Ospreys assigned to the Yokota Air Base unit involved in the crash are now “not conducting flight operations,” according to the Defense Department, other Ospreys in the region are still flying, officials said.

    Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo and Larissa Gao from Hong Kong.