Search ends for three sailors missing after air crash in sea off Japan, Navy says

The search has ended for three sailors who were not immediately recovered after a U.S. Navy aircraft crashed two days earlier, the Navy said Thursday.

The C-2A Greyhound crashed on Nov. 22 into the ocean southeast of Okinawa, Japan. Eight sailors were rescued about 40 minutes after the crash and were transferred to USS Ronald Reagan for medical evaluation, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. They are all currently in good condition.

The U.S. Navy said the families of the three service members missing had been notified of their "duty status whereabouts unknown (DUSTWUN)" status as of early Thursday, CBS News correspondent David Martin reported Wednesday

The Navy said Thursday that the sailors' names are being withheld until the completion of next of kin notifications.  

The twin-propeller plane came down about 500 nautical miles southeast of Okinawa as it was bringing passengers and cargo from Japan to the aircraft carrier, the Navy said in a statement. The cause wasn't clear and the crash was being investigated, the Navy said. 

The USS Ronald Reagan led the combined search and rescue efforts with Japanese navy, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. During the course of the two-day search, eight U.S. Navy and Japanese navy ships, three helicopter squadrons and maritime patrol aircraft covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the search for the missing sailors, the U.S. Navy said. 

The Nov. 16-26 joint exercise in waters off Okinawa has been described by the Navy as the "premier training event" between the U.S. and Japanese navies, designed to increase defensive readiness and interoperability in air and sea operations.

The Navy's Japan-based 7th Fleet has had two fatal accidents in Asian waters this year, leaving 17 sailors dead and prompting the removal of eight top Navy officers from their posts, including the 7th Fleet commander.

The USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided off Japan.

The Navy has concluded that the collisions were avoidable and resulted from widespread failures by the crews and commanders, who didn't quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies. A Navy report recommended numerous changes to address the problems, ranging from improved training to increasing sleep and stress management for sailors.