9 killed in Japan chopper crash


Posted at Mar 07 2017 03:50 AM

NAGANO - None of the nine members of a rescue squad survived a helicopter crash in central Japan over the weekend as police confirmed the deaths of six more people on Monday.

The other three had already been pronounced dead following the crash of the chopper during a rescue drill on Sunday afternoon near Mt. Hachibuse in Nagano Prefecture.

Local police have identified the nine as pilot Masaji Iwata, 56, firefighters Masaharu Daikuhara, 42, Tadahiro Takizawa, 47, Hiroshi Oguchi, 42, Wataru Ito, 35, Noritoshi Takashima, 37, Naoto Ikuma, 35, and Michiaki Koda, 40, and mechanic Ryota Shimizu, 45.

Iwata, who joined the Nagano disaster prevention air corps in 1997, was a veteran with over 5,100 flight hours.

Rescuers resumed their search for the missing crew on Monday morning and recovered the bodies of Ito and Takashima who had been seen trapped in the wreckage since Sunday, as well as those of the four others found underneath the aircraft.

About 100 personnel were deployed by police, firefighters and the Self-Defense Forces in the search in the mountains waist-high in snow.

The nine members on board the Bell 412EP were scheduled to conduct a drill on saving mountain climbers with members descending from the helicopter using ropes.

Investigators from the Japan Transport Safety Board, an arm of the transport ministry, arrived in the prefecture to look into the cause of the crash.

The helicopter took off from Matsumoto airport in Nagano around 1:30 p.m. Sunday and, according to a flight plan filed with the ministry, was scheduled to land on the Takabocchi Plateau in Shiojiri in the prefecture at 1:53 p.m.

The helicopter failed to make radio contact as scheduled upon landing, prompting the prefectural government to request a police search around 2:37 p.m.

The helicopter was found crashed near the 1,929-meter mountain straddling Matsumoto and Okaya around 3:10 p.m. Sunday.

A local weather office has said weather conditions at the time did not appear to have any impact on the flight.

The helicopter took off with sufficient fuel to continue flying for around 90 minutes, and no signs of abnormality in the aircraft were detected before the takeoff, according to the transport ministry and the prefectural government.