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A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force SH-60J Seahawk helicopter lands on the USS Carter Hall during anti-piracy drills, April 20, 2017.
A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force SH-60J Seahawk helicopter lands on the USS Carter Hall during anti-piracy drills, April 20, 2017. (Darren Moore/U.S. Navy photo)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter crashed into the Sea of Japan Saturday during nighttime take-off and landing exercises, a Defense Ministry spokesman said, spurring a frantic search for survivors.

The SH-60J Seahawk from the Asagiri-class destroyer Setogiri lost contact at around 10:48 p.m., about 50 miles off Tappizaki, Aomori Prefecture, the spokesman said. Search-and-rescue operations began immediately, and one survivor from the four-person crew was plucked from the sea.

Authorities have also recovered what appear to be the helicopter’s rear rotor and its flight recorder, the spokesman said. Search efforts continued Monday morning, and an investigation is underway.

“The whereabouts of the three missing personnel have not been confirmed, but a piece of the aircraft has been recovered,” the spokesman said. “We are doing our best to find the missing personnel.”

The Self-Defense Force has dispatched five vessels and 10 aircraft to search for the missing crew, the spokesman said. Japan’s Coast Guard has also sent two patrol boats. No U.S. forces are involved in the search.

The commander in chief of the Self-Defense Fleet has grounded all Seahawk helicopters until further notice.

The Setogiri belongs to Escort Flotilla 3 of MSDF Maizuru District, the spokesman said.

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