US ends search for three sailors lost in Philippine Sea air crash

A file photo of C-2A Greyhound prepares to land on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, on Aug 22.

TOKYO (AFP) - The US Navy on Friday (Nov 24) called off its search for three American sailors missing since their plane crashed in the Philippine Sea.

A C-2A "Greyhound" aircraft with 11 people on board went down Wednesday afternoon around 930km southeast of Okinawa. Eight sailors were rescued shortly after the accident.

All eight "are in good condition at this time", the navy said in a statement.

The decision to abandon the search and rescue comes after two days of operations involving seven ships from the US Navy and Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force, three helicopter squadrons and maritime patrol aircraft.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families," said the statement.

"As difficult as this is, we are thankful for the rapid and effective response that led to the rescue of eight of our shipmates," it said.

The plane was on a routine transport flight, carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in southern Japan to the USS Ronald Reagan.

The C-2A is a re-supply workhorse for US aircraft carriers, routinely ferrying cargo, mail and people onto and off the globally deployed vessels.

US authorities initially told Japan on Wednesday that engine trouble was the suspected cause of the accident. The Navy says it has launched an investigation.

The crash is the latest in a string of recent accidents involving US naval vessels in the Asia-Pacific region.

In August, the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker off Singapore, killing 10 sailors and injuring five others.

Two months earlier, another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, and a cargo ship smashed into each other off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead.

There were also two other, lesser-known incidents. In January, the USS Antietam ran aground near its base in Japan, and in May, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel.

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