The wreckage of Gunma prefectural air rescue helicopter is seen after crashing in Nakanojo town, Gunma prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, Aug 10, 2018. (AKIKO MATSUSHITA / KYODO NEWS / AP)
TOKYO - Two people have been confirmed dead after a local Japanese government helicopter that went missing earlier in the day was found to have crashed on a mountain in the central Japanese prefecture of Gunma on Friday.
The condition and possible other fatalities of the other seven members aboard the chopper remains unknown as the Self-Defense Force and local rescue officials attempt to attend the scene in extremely foggy conditions, local authorities said.
According to the authorities, the chopper was one of the prefecture's disaster prevention helicopters and lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly past 10 am local time after taking off at 9:15 a.m. local time.
The helicopter was being flown by Noriyuki Amagai, 57, an experienced pilot who had logged many flying hours, sources close to the matter said.
This undated photo from the website of Gunma Prefectural Fire Safety Division shows the air rescue helicopter that crashed in central Japan mountains on Aug 10, 2018, hours after it lost contact and the condition of nine people aboard is not immediately clear. (GUNMA PREFECTURAL FIRE SAFETY DIVISION / AP)
It was scheduled to return to its heliport in Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture, at 10:45 am, prefectural officials said.
The helicopter was supposed to be observing a hiking trail, which spans Gunma, Nagano and Niigata prefectures when contact was lost, officials said.
The transport ministry said the helicopter was a Bell 412EP helicopter and had began operations in May 1997, clocking up around 7,000 flight hours.
The same model of helicopter crashed in March last year killing all nine occupants and in November last year another crash involving the same model crashed killing four people aboard.