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Four die in GSDF helicopter crash

Date Posted: 2007-04-06

Four helicopter crewmen are dead after their Chinook helicopter crashed in fog on the Kagoshima Prefecture island of Tokunoshima.

The Naha-based CH-47 was en route to Tokunoshima on an urgent medical air evacuation mission. The helicopter crashed onto Mount Amagi Friday night and burst into flames. The chopper left Naha airport shortly before 10pm for the 200 kilometer flight to transfer an elderly woman and her doctor to Okinawa.

The helicopter disappeared from radar at 11:06pm, moments after radioing air traffic controllers it would land at Tokunoshima airport, and not at a playground next to the hospital. The crewman said the change was “because of poor visibility”. Fukuoka Aviation Weather Station said visibility was down to under 200 meters in the Tokunoshima area.

Kagoshima Prefecture Police were bombarded with late night calls Friday reporting hearing explosions on the mountain, that a helicopter had crashed, and that there was a fire. The wreckage was found Saturday morning on the side of Mount Amagi.

The helicopter unit provides emergency air ambulance service from islands in Kagoshima Prefecture south to Yonaguni, Okinawa Prefecture’s southernmost island. The unit has transported more than 7,600 patients since being formed in 1972.

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