A Minnesota native is among the eight U.S. Air Force members killed in an Osprey aircraft crash off the coast of an island in southern Japan last week, the Air Force announced Tuesday.
Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, was an instructor pilot on the aircraft — an Osprey CV-22B. The vehicle acts like a helicopter but can also rotate its propellers to act like a plane mid-flight.
The crash happened last Wednesday following an "aircraft mishap" during a routine training mission, the Air Force said in a news release. It took place off the shore of Yakushima, a mountainous island known for its lush forests that inspired the setting for the animated movie "Princess Mononoke."
At least three pilots were on board the craft, the Air Force said. It has not been confirmed who was piloting it, and the Air Force has not released more about what caused the crash.
One eyewitness reported seeing flames emitting from the aircraft's left engine before it crashed near Yakushima Airport, according to Japanese news outlet NHK.
Hoernemann was assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo.
Human remains were found and recovered Monday by Japanese and U.S. rescue divers, along with the main fuselage of the aircraft wreckage, the Air Force said.
The bodies of three airmen were recovered as of Tuesday; another three have been located but not recovered yet, and two have not been found, the Air Force said. The discoveries came after "days of intensive, 24/7" search efforts, it added.
"The main priority is bringing the Airmen home and taking care of their family members," the Air Force release stated. "Support to, and the privacy of the families and loved ones impacted by this incident remains (the Air Force Special Operations Command)'s top priority."
The Osprey aircrafts have a history of accidents and fatalities dating back to when they were introduced in the early 1990s. Before this crash, 53 people have died in Osprey aircraft accidents dating back to 1991, according to the Aviation Safety Network of the Flight Safety Foundation.
The Japan Coast Guard and fishermen discovered other pieces of wreckage and handed them over to the Air Force, Japanese news outlet Kyodo News reported.
The Air Force changed the status of the missing airmen from "unknown" to "deceased" on Tuesday.