Updated at 4 a.m. ET Thursday
A “mishap” involving two Marine Corps aircraft has left five U.S. service members missing off Japan. The Corps reports that the accident occurred “during regularly scheduled training” at around 2 a.m. local time Thursday, some 200 miles off the Japanese coast.
In a statement emailed to NPR, a Marines spokesman said Thursday that seven crew members total were involved in the incident — two aboard an F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter, and five aboard a KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft.
The two Marines flying in the F/A-18 have been rescued. “One is in fair condition,” 1st Lt. David Mancilla explained in the statement, “and the other is being transported to a local hospital for evaluation.”
Search efforts remain underway for the five members of the KC-130 crew, assisted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japanese Coast Guard.
“The aircraft were conducting routine training and aerial refueling was a part of the training; as to what was taking place when the mishap occurred, that is under investigation,” Mancilla said.
“My heart goes out to the families and colleagues of Marines involved in this tragedy,” William Hagerty, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said at an event in Tokyo, according to Reuters.
“They risk their lives every day to protect Japan and to protect this region and sometimes they pay the greatest costs,” he added. “So I want to emphasize this security alliance that we have is critical and it is moving forward to the right direction.”
During their search efforts, the Marines are receiving assistance from the U.S. Navy and Japanese defense forces.
“We are thankful for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s, the Japanese Coast Guard’s, and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s efforts as they continue to respond to the search and rescue operation,” III Marine Expeditionary Force said Thursday.