The U.S. Navy has halted its search and rescue efforts for three sailors who were lost at sea Wednesday when a U.S. Navy transport plane crashed into the western Pacific Ocean.
The Navy said Thursday that eight U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, three helicopter squadrons and maritime patrol aircraft had covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the two-day search for the missing sailors.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families,” said Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, commander, Task Force 70. “As difficult as this is, we are thankful for the rapid and effective response that led to the rescue of eight of our shipmates, and I appreciate the professionalism and dedication shown by all who participated in the search efforts.”
The Navy said the twin-propeller C2-A Greyhound aircraft plummeted into the sea about 925 kilometers southeast of Okinawa while it was on a routine mission taking passengers and cargo from a U.S. base in Japan to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.
It said the eight people were rescued about 40 minutes later and taken to the Reagan where they are reported in good condition.
There was no immediate explanation for the crash, and the Navy said the incident is being investigated.
U.S. President Donald Trump, at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the Thanksgiving weekend holiday, said via Twitter that he is monitoring the situation.
“Prayers for all involved,” he said.
Joint exercises with Japan
The Reagan was operating in the Philippine Sea as part of joint exercises with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, part of 10 days of training designed to increase defensive readiness and interoperability in air and sea maneuvers between the two countries.
More than 14,000 U.S. personnel are participating in the drills, which also include the guided-missile destroyers USS Stethem, USS Chafee and USS Mustin, and a maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadron.
Fifth accident this year
Wednesday’s crash was the fifth major Navy incident in Asian waters this year.
Two fatal accidents left 17 sailors dead and prompted the Defense Department to remove of eight top Navy officers from their posts, including the 7th Fleet commander.
The destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in August off Singapore, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead and five injured. The USS Fitzgerald, another destroyer, collided with a container ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.
After investigations, the Navy concluded the collisions were avoidable, resulting from widespread failures by commanders and crewmembers, who did not recognize and respond quickly to the emergencies as they unfolded. The Navy has called for improved training, and increasing sleep and stress management for sailors.
Separately, in January, the USS Antietam ran aground near Yosuka, Japan, and the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel in May.