Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force personnel look out from the northern top of Irabu Island during the search operation for a missing UH-60JA helicopter in the sea off Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture, southwestern Japan, 07 April 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/

Japan finds parts of missing military chopper, bodies underwater

Tokyo, Apr 14 (EFE).- Japanese authorities confirmed on Friday that they had found remains of a military helicopter underwater days after it went missing on Apr. 6 near the Okinawa archipelago, along with the bodies of some of the 10 crew members onboard.

On Friday, the search teams – working non-stop since the aircraft disappeared from the radar around 40 kilometers after taking off from an airbase on the Miyako island – focused their efforts on waters north the Irabu island after locating part of the wreckage the night before.

Images captured by an underwater camera during the search, released on Friday, showed severe damage to parts of the UH-60JA utility helicopter which crashed in an area where the sea is around 100-meter deep, state broadcaster NHK reported.

More debris from the chopper were found on the coasts of Irabu.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida thanked the military – called self-defense forces in Japan – as well as the coastguard and the fishing officials for their efforts during the search and rescue operations spanning more than a week.

Kishida, who confirmed that the remains that were found belonged to the missing chopper, said all efforts were being made to bring back the remains of the soldiers killed in the accident.

Authorities have not yet confirmed how many bodies have been found.

The PM also said that authorities were working to recover the wreckage from the sea and investigate the cause of the accident.

Military personnel specialized in saturation diving on Friday attempted to go down to the hull but had to abandon the attempt due to unspecified reasons according to NHK, which added that the operation would resume on Saturday.

The helicopter is believed to have suffered a sudden accident, although the causes remains unknown. Access to the submerged wreckage is important for in-depth investigations.

None of the two air-traffic control centers in the area received a distress signal from the helicopter’s emergency locator transmitter, which is designed to get activated automatically on impact during a crash. EFE