The Air Force has called off its search for the remaining missing crew member of a helicopter that crashed in Okinawa on Monday, following reports that first responders discovered human remains at the site.
Three of the four airmen on board the HH-60 that crashed in the woods outside Camp Hansen were taken to a local hospital to be treated for their wounds. The military has not yet identified the remains found at the crash site, an Air Force spokesman says, though it has called off search and recovery efforts that began Monday.
The Air Force is convening a review board to determine what caused the Pavehawk from the 33rd Rescue Squadron to crash.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Angelalla, commander of the Fifth Air Force, says this is a difficult time for the squadron, which he calls a "vital component to the U.S./Japan alliance."
The crash prompted an outpouring of support from some Japanese Twitter users, contrary to reports Monday from Japanese and Western media outlets that the incident could heighten existing tensions between Okinawans and the U.S. military presence on the island. Many users cited the squadron's assistance in relief efforts following the March 2011 earthquake that crippled the Asian nation.
"I wish from the bottom of my heart for the souls of the soldiers that were sacrificed," wrote user Adazakura2011 in a translated tweet. "No attempt has many Japanese citizens forget the support of the earthquake of the 33rd Rescue Squadron."
"Upon being killed in the line of duty of your country members that hath devoted himself to the relief of the Great East Japan Earthquake, I would pray for the souls from the bottom of my heart," wrote user sinobite_sinobu.
The squadron is tasked with search and recovery efforts for both military and civilians at all times of day, over land and water. It participated in Operation TOMADACHI, in which 25 airmen and five Pavehawks flew 142 hours of rescue missions within the first 10 days after the earthquake.
Flights at Kadena Air Base, where the crew was based, have been grounded on Tuesday except for essential missions. They will resume on Wednesday.