UPDATE 8:31 A.M.:
Search and rescue operations continue in hopes of finding five U.S. Marines reported missing after two Marine aircraft collided and crashed during what the Marine Corps confirmed early Thursday morning as a "routine training and aerial refueling" exercise.
The incident is still being referred to as a "mishap" though an investigation is ongoing.
The Marine Corps provided the following update:
The United States Marine Corps confirms that two Marines have been found. One is in fair condition and the other is at a local hospital for evaluation. The search and rescue operations continue for the remaining five U.S. Marines who were aboard the KC-130 Hercules and F/A-18 Hornet involved in a mishap about 200 miles off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m. Dec. 6. The aircraft were conducting routine training and aerial refueling was a part of the training; as to what was taking place when the mishap occurred, that is under investigation.
According to BBC, "The first Marine was rescued about four hours later, Japanese officials said, while the second was found 10 hours after the collision. They [the U.S. Marine Corps] said one of those rescued was from the fighter jet."
Five Marines are missing after two U.S. Marine aircraft crashed off the coast of Japan Wednesday.
The U.S. Marine Corps announced the crash in a statement indicating that search and rescue operations were underway for the aircraft “involved in a mishap off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 am Dec. 6” local time, and that the incident was under investigation.
“The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation,” the statement reads. “We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
Both aircraft appear to have been located, as “Japan’s Defense Ministry said the two aircraft carrying seven crew members altogether had collided midair and crashed into the sea about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Muroto cape on the Shikoku main island,” the Associated Press reported.
Two crew members have since been found while five others are still missing. The first was said to be in stable condition by rescuers in Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, which immediately responded to the U.S. Marine Corps in their search and rescue operation. The second crew member’s condition is unknown but was found about 60 miles from shore.
“The Marines say an F/A-18 fighter jet and a KC-130 refueling aircraft collided and crashed during training around 2 a.m. after the planes took off from their base in Iwakuni, near Hiroshima. The seven crew members included two in the F/A-18 and five in the KC-130,” wrote AP.
This story is developing. Stay tuned to MRCTV for updates.