The search-and-rescue operation for five missing U.S. Marines has concluded and the crew members have been declared deceased following a tragic jet collision that occurred during a training exercise last week off the coast of Japan.
What are the details?
Two Marines were found alive after the crash between an F/A-18 fighter jet and a KC-130 refueling plane on Thursday, but one crew member died later because of injuries. The U.S. 7th Fleet, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard continued to comb the area for the five missing Marines for days before the search was called off Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force announced the decision in a statement, saying, "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 KC-130J aircraft which was involved in a mishap off the southern coast of Japan and to declare that these Marine warriors are deceased.
"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," Smith continued. "The KC-130J flight data and cockpit voice recorders have not been located at this time, making it premature to speculate about wreckage recovery."
His statement concluded, "Every member of the III MEF family mourns this loss and stands alongside the families of the fallen in this terrible moment. We remain, Semper Fidelis." According to a news release from the Marine Corps, the next-of-kin for the fallen Marines have been notified. The identities of the deceased crew members will be released by the military within 24 hours.
An Arizona woman told Phoenix's KPHO-TV Monday that her son, 27-year-old Maximo Flores, was identified as one of the missing Marines.
The Marine Corps' news release said that the two aircraft crashed while "conducting regularly-scheduled training," and "it is not confirmed that aerial refueling was ongoing when the mishap occurred." The incident is currently under investigation, and no further details about the tragedy have been released.