MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan – --
The Commanding General of III Marine Expeditionary Force, Lt Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, held a press conference here following the landing of an MV-22 Osprey in the shallow waters off the coast of Okinawa.
Nicholson stated the aircraft was conducting aerial refueling operations over the sea when the rotor blades struck the refueling line, damaging the aircraft.
"After the aircraft was unhooking, it was shaking violently," Nicholson said. "The pilot made a decision to not fly over Okinawan homes and families. He made a conscious decision to try to reach Camp Schwab…and land in the shallow water to protect his crew and the people of Okinawa."
All five crewmembers were rescued and transported to the Camp Foster Naval Hospital. Three of the crewmembers were released from the facility and two still remain hospitalized under observation.
"I want to thank the Japan Coast Guard for their quick response as well as the Okinawan Police for their support in securing the site," he said. He also thanked the U.S. Air Force 33rd Rescue Squadron for their assistance during the operation.
Nicholson addressed the concerns of the Okinawan community and focused on reiterating the safety and resourcefulness of the MV-22 aircraft to support the U.S.-Japan Alliance.
"I regret that this incident took place," Nicholson said. "We are thankful for all the thoughts and prayers the people of Okinawa gave to our injured crew."
Nicholson has made the decision to temporarily halt all MV-22 flight operations under Marine Forces Japan until he is "satisfied that we have reviewed our checklists and safety of flight procedures."
An initial salvage survey at the location is underway to determine the most viable platform and method of recovery for the aircraft, stressing the importance of safety and protection to the environment.
A formal investigation into the incident has been launched. There will be no further information on the cause of the incident until the investigation is complete.
Media can contact the III Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at the provided email address.