Navy officials said Friday that four Navy aviators who crashed their jet into Kita Io Jima on Tuesday night were dead after military search crews found the S-3B Viking’s wreckage and two sets of remains last week.
The names of the San Diego-based crew members were not released Friday pending a mandatory waiting period after notification of next of kin.
A memorial service for the aviators is planned for Sunday aboard the USS John C. Stennis, which is deployed to the western Pacific Ocean.
The Navy is conducting an investigation into the cause of the incident while continuing recovery operations with about 41 U.S. Navy and Air Force search-and-rescue personnel, stated a 7th Fleet news release.
After the S-3 Viking’s wreckage was located, the Navy directed helicopters, other aircraft and surface ships from the Stennis strike group to Kita Io Jima, which is about 45 miles north of Iwo Jima.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force also assisted with search and rescue and is supporting current recovery efforts, Navy officials said, and expressed gratitude for JMSDF’s support.
The JMSDF opened up its Iwo Jima airfield facilities to provide dining services, a rest station for search-and-rescue crews and a hangar for debris recovered from the crash site, and also made the Iwo Jima medical station available on a 24-hour basis. In addition, two JMSDF UH-60J helicopters stationed at Iwo Jima airfield were placed on standby in case they were needed.
Navy officials also said U.S. Air Force pararescuemen from the 31st Rescue Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, flew to Iwo Jima via a Kadena-based C-130 from the 353rd Special Operations Group.
The dead aviators were assigned to Sea Control Squadron 35, based at Naval Air Station North Island in California. The crew was conducting a routine training mission as part of the Joint Air-Sea Exercise, or JASEX ’04, with the Stennis and USS Kitty Hawk strike groups in the vicinity of the Iwo Jima island chain when radio contact was lost around 7:42 p.m. Tuesday.
— Juliana Gittler contributed to this story.