After nearly five hours, rescuers have not yet located a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot whose F-16 jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean at around 11:30 Japan time Sunday morning.
The jet went down approximately 200 miles northeast of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, according to a spokeswoman at the Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, Reuters reported. The jet, produced by Lockheed Martin Corp., had taken off from the Misawa base.
“One person, the pilot, was on board. Efforts are currently underway to retrieve the pilot,” she said, reading from a statement. "The aircraft was enroute to North America when the incident occurred. The cause of the incident is unknown at this time.”
There were conflicting reports about the whereabouts and condition of the pilot, with some news agencies reporting his location unknown.
By 4:00 p.m. local time, the unidentified pilot had still not been located, said Misawa spokesman Tech. Sig. Phillip Butterfield. "All efforts are focused toward that right now,” Butterfield said. Details about the pilot's condition and circumstances of the crash were unavailable, he added.
However, a spokesman at the Japan Coast Guard allegedly told reporters the pilot ejected from the aircraft and was known to be awaiting rescue at sea.