MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan - The Marine Corps has pronounced the five remaining Marines involved in the F/A-18 and KC-130 aviation mishap deceased. The change in status comes at the conclusion of search and rescue operations.
The next-of-kin for the five deceased Marines have been notified.
"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 US, Japanese, and Australian forces during the search," stated U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Our most valued asset is the individual Marine. We remain faithful to our Marines and their families as we support them through this difficult time. We ask for members of the public to please respect the family and allow them privacy.
The KC-130 Hercules was assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152, call sign "Sumo"), 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
"All of us in the Sumo family are extremely saddened following the announcement of the conclusion of search and rescue operations," said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Mitchell T. Maury, commanding officer of VMGR-152. "We know this difficult decision was made after all resources were exhausted in the vigorous search for our Marines. Our thoughts are heavy and our prayers are with all family and friends of all five aircrew."
The F/A-18 Hornet involved was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 (VMFA-242). The aircraft were conducting regularly-scheduled training. It is not confirmed that aerial refueling was ongoing when the mishap occurred.
The Marine Corps rigorously investigates all aviation mishaps to identify the causes, learn from them, and mitigate future incidents.
The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. There is no additional information available at this time. The identities of the Marines will be provided 24 hours after next of kin have been notified. Media can contact III Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs at IIIMEFMEDIA@usmc.mil.