The Marine Corps has ended an extensive search for five Marines missing after their KC-130J Hercules collided midair with an F/A-18 Hornet last week off Japan’s southern coast.
“After an update from the Joint Personnel Recovery Center, and a review of all available information, I have made the determination to end the search and rescue operations for the crew of our [Hercules] … and to declare that these Marine warriors are deceased,” III Expeditionary Force commander Lt. Gen. Eric Smith said in a statement posted Tuesday afternoon to the organization’s official Facebook page.
“Every possible effort was made to recover our crew and I hope the families of these selfless Americans will find comfort in the incredible efforts made by U.S., Japanese, and Australian forces during the search,” he added.
Seven Marines were involved in the training accident, which occurred just before 2 a.m. Thursday about 200 miles south of Muroto Cape on Shikoku Island, U.S. and Japanese officials said.
Although the crews were conducting regularly-scheduled training, Marine investigators have not confirmed that aerial refueling was underway during the incident, the statement said.
The Hercules’ flight data and cockpit voice recorders have not been found, making it “premature to speculate about wreckage recovery,” the statement added.