Air Force names the 8 airmen killed in Osprey crash, shifts to recovery effort
Stars and Stripes December 5, 2023
WASHINGTON — The Air Force on Tuesday identified the eight airmen who were killed in the crash of a CV-22B Osprey off the coast of Japan a week ago.
“Our hearts are with the families, loved ones and teammates of our eight fallen [Air Force Special Operations Command] commandos during this difficult time. We are enormously grateful to all those involved in the recovery ops,” the command said in a statement. “With deepest sympathies for the families, it is our sacred obligation to care for you.”
The eight airmen were aboard the tiltrotor aircraft on a training mission Nov. 29 when it crashed into the sea off Yakushima, an island in Kagoshima prefecture. The aircraft was assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.
The Air Force identified those killed in the crash as Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Minnesota; Maj. Eric V. Spendlove, 36, of Utah; Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of California; Capt. Terrell K. Brayman, 32, of New York; Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Florida; Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Georgia; Senior Airman Brian K. Johnson, 32, of Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Jake Galliher, 24, of Massachusetts.
“After days of intensive, 24/7 search and rescue operations … the U.S. military transitioned search and rescue operations to search and recovery operations,” Air Force Special Operations Command said. “The transition … occurs when the determination is made that survivors are unlikely.”
The body of Galliher, a military linguist, was recovered on the day of the crash, but U.S. and Japanese forces have been searching for the other seven for the past week. The Air Force said it has recovered the remains of three airmen and is in the process of recovering those of three more. The other two have not yet been found.
“We are resolved to locating our air crew and bringing them home to their families,” said Rear Adm. Jeromy Williams, commander of Special Operations Command Pacific.
The service said Hoernemann, Spendlove and Unrath — the most senior members of the crew — were an instructor pilot, a flight surgeon and an Osprey pilot, respectively. Brayman was also an Osprey pilot, Lavoy was a medical operations flight chief, and Turnage and Johnson were flight engineers.
The CV-22B Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that can take off and land vertically like a helicopter and maneuver like an airplane in flight. Manufactured by Boeing and Bell Textron, the Osprey has been in U.S. military service since 2007. Japan grounded its Osprey fleet the day after the crash, and Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said Tuesday that the U.S. Ospreys in the country also have not been flying.
“Regarding flight safety, we still have concerns,” Kihara told reporters. “Therefore, I have been saying that there is a need to continue receiving thorough information.”
Several agencies are involved in the ongoing recovery operation, including the Japan Coast Guard, Japan Self-Defense Forces, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, the U.S. Pacific Fleet and 1st Special Forces Group, officials said.
Crews have located parts of the downed Osprey, including the fuselage, and authorities are trying to determine what caused it to crash. Multiple witnesses have said they saw fire coming from one of the engines.
“The honorable service of these eight airmen to this great nation will never be forgotten, as they are now among the giants who shape our history,” said Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.