The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) on Tuesday identified the eight U.S. airmen who died in the fatal Osprey crash in southwestern Japan last week, as President Biden and other U.S. officials expressed condolences for the loss of the service members.
AFSOC said in an email update that the rescue mission has now formally transitioned to a search and recovery operation as personnel work to locate the rest of the CV-22 Osprey and the remaining two bodies of the crew.
The bodies of three airmen from the crashed Osprey have been recovered, while the remains of another three are in the process of being recovered and the other two bodies have yet to be found.
A broad range of U.S. military personnel, along with Japan’s military and coast guard, are continuing to search for the remaining crew members and aircraft wreckage.
Biden said in a Tuesday statement he was “heartbroken to learn of the loss of eight American service members.”
“Our service members and their families are the backbone of our nation. We owe them everything,” Biden said. “[First lady Jill Biden] and I are praying for the families and friends who lost a loved one in this terrible accident.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was “deeply saddened” by the loss as he promised a thorough investigation of the incident.
“The entire Department of Defense mourns alongside the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives today in the service of their country,” Austin said.
Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander, said the “depth of sorrow is immeasurable” after the accident.
“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,” Bauernfeind said in a statement.
The Osprey, a hybrid aircraft that can fly like a helicopter but at a much faster rate, is typically used to transport special forces. The aircraft comes in two common models, the MV-22 and the CV-22.
The U.S. has struggled with several crashes of Ospreys in the past, including another one in Japan, and there have been reports of a technical problem with the aircraft’s clutch.
The crashed Osprey was a CV-22 model and had flown out of Yokota Air Base in Japan. Its engine reportedly caught on fire before it plummeted into the ocean near the island of Yakushima.
In the wake of the deadly crash, Japan has asked the U.S. to suspend its Osprey flights.
Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said the Air Force unit that was involved with the crash is not conducting Osprey flights and that the U.S. was closely working with Japan on the matter.
“All CV-22 Ospreys in Japan operate only after undergoing thorough maintenance and safety checks,” she told reporters in a Monday call. “And we have already started sharing information about the accident with our Japanese partners and should continue to do so in a timely and transparent manner.”
The first body that was recovered last week was identified over the weekend as 24-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Jake Galliher.
The other crew members, all of whom were assigned to the Air Force’s 353rd Special Operations Wing and were based out of Yokota Air Base and Kadena Air Base, were identified by AFSOC:
Maj. Jeffrey Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minn.
Maj. Eric Spendlove, 36, of St. George, Utah
Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, Calif.
Capt. Terrell Brayman, 32, of Pittsford, N.Y.
Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Oviedo, Fla.
Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Kennesaw, Ga.
Senior Airman Brian Johnson, 32, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio