Osprey aircraft in Japan grounded by Air Force in wake of deadly accident

The Air Force grounded a set of Osprey aircraft after one of the planes crashed in waters off of Japan earlier this week, killing one and leaving seven still missing, officials said Friday.

CV-22B Ospreys assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing out of Yokota Air Base are now “not conducting flight operations,” following Wednesday’s fatal crash, according to a statement by Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh.

Other Ospreys in the region are still flying, officials said.

The hybrid aircraft is famous for its unique “tilt-rotor” flight system, allowing it to take off and land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane.

“The safety of our service members and Japanese communities is a top priority for the United States,” Singh said. “The United States is taking all appropriate safety measures, as we do for every flight and every operation.”

The Pentagon thanked the Japanese coast guard and local fishermen for their ongoing help in finding more wreckage and seven missing victims off the shore of Yakushima Island, where the crash happened.

“We have already started sharing information about the accident with our Japanese partners, and have pledged to continue to do so in a timely and transparent manner,” Singh said. “We have good communications between our senior leaders and are in constant dialogue regarding aviation safety and other safety-related issues.”

Eight crew members were on board when their craft went down, and seven airmen were classified “duty status — whereabouts unknown,” according to an Air Force Special Operations Command statement updating the search on Friday.

The Air Force said Friday the body of just one crew member has been recovered, and that victim was identified by police in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as Staff Sgt. Jacob “Jake” Galliher.

Galliher, 24, is from Lanesborough and leaves behind a wife and two young sons, 2 and 6 months, according to police.

“As a father, my heart goes out to Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher’s mother and father during this difficult time,” said U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who represents Pittsfield and Lanesborough.

“Any parent will tell you there is no greater pain than the pain of losing a child, and Jacob Galliher was beloved by all. Staff Sgt. Galliher represented our nation’s best, enlisting in the Air Force right out of high school and committing himself to serving his country.”

The Japanese coast guard said a member of the public called 118, Japan’s version of 911, at 2:47 p.m. local time on Wednesday (12:47 a.m. ET). Japanese rescuers quickly turned up “wreckage-like debris,” an overturned life raft and the body of one crew member, the coast guard said.

Initial reports pegged the number of people on board at either six or eight. The Air Force has definitively said eight were on board.

“I’m heartbroken to learn of the passing of Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher, who lost his life while proudly serving his country,” Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said in a statement. “My thoughts are with his family, especially his two young sons, and the Berkshire County community as they mourn the loss of one of their best and brightest.”