Minnesota airman among 8 killed in crash near Japan

Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minnesota, was killed in the crash.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick

(Daily Caller News Foundation) — The Air Force on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of all eight airmen aboard the Osprey aircraft that crashed off the coast of southern Japan on Nov. 29, transitioning from rescue operations to locating the bodies.

Tuesday’s statement was the first time all eight were confirmed dead after the Air Force said U.S. and Japanese search and rescue teams found the remains of five more crew members and aircraft debris on Monday. The Japanese coast guard found the remains of one crew member within hours of what U.S. officials said was an emergency water landing, whom Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) later identified as 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Jacob “Jake” M. Galliher of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

“Today we mourn the loss of our Airmen who perished in an aircraft accident off the coast of Japan,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a statement. “These brave American Airmen were training and honing their skills during the time of this tragic accident.”

The deceased airmen were identified as Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minnesota;  Maj. Eric V. Spendlove, 36, of St. George, Utah; Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, California; Capt. Terrell K. Brayman, 32, of Pittsford, New York; Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Oviedo, Florida; Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Kennesaw, Georgia; and Senior Airman Brian K. Johnson, 32, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

All were assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing based out of Yokota Air Base in Japan, AFSOC said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and peers of all who are impacted by this mishap and loss of life,” Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, the commander of AFSOC, said in the statement. “In times like these, where service to our nation is not just a personal commitment but also a legacy woven into the fabric of our families, the depth of sorrow is immeasurable.”

“The honorable service of these eight Airmen to this great Nation will never be forgotten, as they are now among the giants who shape our history,” Bauernfeind added.

AFSOC updated the status of the seven remaining Airmen from DUSTWUN (duty status-whereabouts unknown) to deceased and notified the families, the command said Tuesday. U.S. and Japanese response teams have pulled three bodies from the water, pinpointed the locations of three more and are still searching for the last two.

Japan asked the U.S. to suspend CV-22 Osprey flights in the country after the accident, but the Pentagon said it has continued to fly the aircraft “only after undergoing thorough maintenance and safety checks,” Reuters reported.


Micaela Burrow