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U.S. military identifies 5 Marines declared dead in midair crash off Japan

Missing Marines in midair collision presumed dead

TOKYO — The U.S. military has identified five Marines who were declared dead Tuesday after their refueling plane collided with a fighter jet last week off Japan's southern coast. 

"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the names of our fallen Marines," Marine Corps Lt. Col. Mitchell T. Maury, the squadron's commanding officer, said in a statement Wednesday. "They were exceptional aviators, Marines, and friends whom will be eternally missed. Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and loved ones at this extremely difficult time." 

The Marine Corps identified the crew members as Lt. Col. Kevin R. Herrmann, 38, of New Bern, North Carolina; Maj. James M. Brophy, 36, of Staatsburg, New York; Staff Sgt. Maximo A. Flores, 27, of Surprise, Arizona; Cpl. Daniel E. Baker, 21, of Tremont, Illinois; and Cpl. William C. Ross, 21, of Hendersonville, Tennessee.

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The crew members were based at Iwakuni air station near Hiroshima as part of the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152. They were on a KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft that collided with an F/A-18 Hornet — a fighter jet — during regular training.

The two crew members in the fighter jet were recovered after the accident, but one died. He was earlier identified as Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28, of Miramar, Florida. The Marines said the survivor was in stable condition when rescued.

"The circumstances of the aircraft mishap are currently under investigation," the Marines said in a statement. 

Earlier this week, a woman in a Phoenix suburb was desperate for word on her son's fate. Rosa Bennett told CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV that her son, Maximo Flores, was one of five Marines who were missing after the collision.

"I was just hoping it was a mistake, that he wasn't in that plane, but he was. It's very hard. I mean — I picture him. I just see his face, his smile and then realize I'm not going to see it again," she said.

It is the latest in a series of recent accidents involving U.S. military forces deployed in and near Japan.

Last month, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea southwest of Japan's southern island of Okinawa, though its two pilots were rescued. In mid-October, a MH-60 Seahawk also belonging to the Ronald Reagan crashed off the Philippine Sea shortly after takeoff, causing non-fatal injuries to a dozen sailors.