Jiji Press NAKANOJO, Gunma (Jiji Press) — A disaster-response helicopter with nine people on board crashed into a mountain in Nakanojo, Gunma Prefecture, on Friday, authorities and other sources said.
What appear to be fragments of the helicopter and eight people were found in the afternoon in the mountain, located on the border with neighboring Nagano Prefecture.
The Gunma prefectural government said two people have been confirmed dead.
According to the prefectural government and other sources, the helicopter Haruna lost contact in the morning after taking off from a heliport in Maebashi and being spotted flying near Mt. Yokote, which straddles the two prefectures.
The aircraft, which was on a flight to inspect a ridge line trail on the prefectural border ahead of its opening, was carrying the pilot, an engineer, the leader and a member of the Gunma disaster-response aviation team and five firefighting headquarters officials, said Tokyo-based Toho Air Service Co., which takes charge of the operation and maintenance of the Haruna.
The helicopter, introduced in fiscal 1997, was operated by a 57-year-old veteran male pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours.