US Air Force announces end of search and recovery operations for Osprey that crashed in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — The U.S. Air Force on Friday announced the end of its more than month-long search and recovery operation at the site of a CV-22B Osprey crash off the southern Japanese coast in late November, and expressed regret. To be able to find the last of the eight crew members killed.

The Air Force said it would now focus on finding the cause of the Nov. 29 crash off the coast of Yakushima island that killed eight members of the Air Force Special Operations Command. The Osprey was on a routine training flight to the southern island of Okinawa.

Divers found the remains of seven crew members in the weeks following the crash, but the body of Medical Operations Flight Commander Major Eric Spendlove has not been found.

The Air Force also recovered the flight data recorder, or "black box", which is critical to the investigation of the crash. Analysis of its data is expected to take several weeks. The Navy salvage ship USNS Salvor recovered most of the Osprey's debris from the seabed and transported it to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture for analysis.

"Our main priority since the crash has been to locate our heroes and return them to their families," said Rear Admiral Jeromy Williams, commander of Special Operations Command Pacific. "After more than a month of an exhausting search... we have exhausted all identified potential options to recover our partner."

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"Our thoughts are with the families and squadron mates of our CV-22 aircrew and we express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who assisted in the search," Williams said in a statement.

Spendlove's families have been informed of the findings.

The Japan Coast Guard, the Japanese Self-Defense Force, as well as local authorities and fishermen became involved in search and rescue operations following the accident.

The Army's entire Osprey fleet has been grounded since December 6 after the Air Force linked the plane's physical failure not to an accident but to human error.

Japan, the only international partner that flies the Osprey, has also grounded its fleet at home and told the US military not to deploy its Ospreys to Japan until safety is confirmed .

The US-made Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but can turn its propeller forward during flight and fly very fast like an airplane.

The Osprey has been involved in several fatal accidents in its relatively short time in service, and the accident raised new questions about its safety, leading a congressional oversight committee to launch an investigation.

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