Tokyo, Feb 5 (IANS) Two crew members aboard a Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) attack helicopter were killed after the chopper crashed into a residential area on Monday and set ablaze a house in Saga Prefecture in Japan.
According to the police, one person, believed to be a crew member, was killed in the crash and another was found without vital signs, Xinhua reported.
The AH-64 attack helicopter crashed in a residential area in Kanzaki City after the crew members reported an abnormality and tried to land, the defence ministry said.
The chopper was on a test flight after undergoing maintenance at the GSDF’s Metabaru Camp located about 4 km from the crash site, the ministry said.
The police said that all the four residents in a house that caught fire in the crash have been confirmed safe and no injuries have been reported from two schools located close to the scene of the crash.
“We are confirming whether there are any deaths and damage,” Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said.
He also said the helicopter, a four-blade, twin-turboshaft attack helicopter, is thought to have nose-dived during its flight from east to west.
All of the GSDF’s 12 other AH-64 helicopters have been grounded, the defence ministry said, pending emergency inspections.
The Saga Prefectural Police Headquarters reportedly received an emergency call saying that a military helicopter had crashed near the Chiyoda Chubu Elementary School in Kanzaki City.
Rescue services were deployed to the scene, where plumes of black smoke were billowing from the crash site.
The local city office said the helicopter crash had resulted in a residential building catching fire near the elementary school and the Dairyuji kindergarten in the city.
An eyewitness from the kindergarten was quoted as saying she heard a loud “bang” but confirmed no one at the kindergarten was injured.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said that at the time and location of the crash, there were no adverse weather conditions. The defence ministry said that aside from its AH-64 “Apache” attack chopper, checkups will be carried out on all SDF helicopters.