The U.S. military on Tuesday said its search-and-rescue mission for airmen missing following last week's Osprey crash off the coast of Japan has transitioned to a search-and-recovery mission. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. military on Tuesday identified the eight U.S. airmen who died in last week's Osprey aircraft crash off the coast of Japan, as officials announced the search-and-rescue mission was transitioning to a recovery operation.
On Wednesday, a CV-22 Osprey crashed just off the shore of Yakushima, an island about 45 miles south of Kagoshima region.
Officials launched an urgent search-and-rescue mission for the eight U.S. airmen aboard the hybrid aircraft, recovering the remains of one airman, while the status of the seven remaining airmen remained unknown.
The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday identified the recovered remains as Staff Sgt. Jake Galliher, and said the status of the seven missing airmen has been transitioned from duty status-whereabouts unknown to deceased.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday that he and first lady Jill Biden were "heartbroken" by the loss of the eight airmen.
"Our service members and their families are the backbone of our nation. We owe them everything. Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who lost a loved one in this terrible accident," he said.
The Air Force said Tuesday that of the eight airmen, the remains of three have been recovered. The remains of another three airmen have been located and the search continues for the remains of two other service members, it said.
The victims of the crash have been identified as Galliher, 24; Maj. Eric Spendlove, 36; Maj. Luke Unrath, 34; Capt. Terrell Brayman, 32; Tech. Sgt. Zachary Lavoy, 33; Staff Sgt. Jake Turnage, 25; and Senior Airman Brian Johnson, 32.
Officials said the crash was the result of an undefined "mishap" that occurred during a routine training mission.
"These brave American airmen were training and honing their skills during the time of this tragic accident. Their dedication to our mission is an inspiration to us all and their loss is felt across the Department of the Air Force," Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a statement.
"Our efforts now turn to families, friends and teammates -- we will honor the memory of those lost and support those who love them and miss them."
The families of the victims have been notified, the Air Force said, adding that the recovery operation will focus on locating and recovering all remains and aircraft debris.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday that the Pentagon continues to gather information about the incident into which they will conduct a "rigorous and thorough investigation."
"The entire Department of Defense mourns alongside the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives today in the service of their country. My heart also goes out to those who were serving alongside these brave men and women in Japan," he said in a statement.