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December 6, 2023 - SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom issued the following statement regarding the loss of eight U.S. Air Force Airmen, including Maj. Luke Unrath of Riverside, in an aircraft crash off the coast of Japan on November 29:

“Jennifer and I are heartbroken by the loss of eight Airmen, including Maj. Luke Unrath of Riverside, and we send our deepest condolences to their family, friends and colleagues during this painful time. California joins the nation in mourning this devastating loss and honoring their service to our country.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, was a CV-22 pilot and flight commander assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

In memorial, Governor Newsom ordered flags to be flown at half-staff over the State Capitol and Capitol Annex Swing Space.
Source: Office of the Governor


U.S. Air Force Release on Tuesday Afternoon:

December 5, 2023 - ARLINGTON, Va. - After days of intensive, 24/7 search and rescue operations for eight Airmen following the CV-22 mishap off the shore of Yakushima Island, Japan, the U.S. military transitioned search and rescue operations to search and recovery operations.

The transition from a rescue operation to a recovery operation occurs when the determination is made that survivors are unlikely.

The recovery operation will now focus on locating and recovering all remains and aircraft debris. Of the eight Airmen, the remains of three Airmen have been recovered, the remains of another three Airmen have been located and are in the process of being recovered, and the remains of two Airmen are still being located.

Staff Sgt. Jake Galliher’s remains were recovered Nov. 29, 2023, and the status of the seven remaining Airmen transitioned from DUSTWUN (duty status-whereabouts unknown) to deceased status and all families were notified.

Those names of the deceased are:

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeffrey T. Hoernemann, 32, of Andover, Minnesota, was a CV-22 instructor pilot and officer in charge of training, assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Eric V. Spendlove, 36, of St. George, Utah, was a residency trained flight surgeon and medical operations flight commander assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Luke A. Unrath, 34, of Riverside, California, was a CV-22 pilot and flight commander assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Terrell K. Brayman, 32, of Pittsford, New York, was a CV-22 pilot and flight commander assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Zachary E. Lavoy, 33, of Oviedo, Florida, was a medical operations flight chief assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jake M. Turnage, 25, of Kennesaw, Georgia, was a flight engineer assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brian K. Johnson, 32, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, was a flight engineer assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and peers of all who are impacted by this mishap and loss of life,” said Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, Air Force Special Operations Command commander. “In times like these, where service to our nation is not just a personal commitment but also a legacy woven into the fabric of our families, the depth of sorrow is immeasurable. The honorable service of these eight Airmen to this great Nation will never be forgotten, as they are now among the giants who shape our history.”

Personnel and assets across five military branches alongside our Japanese allies supported the search and rescue operations and will continue to support recovery operations.

“On behalf of all of the joint U.S. teammates actively involved in the search, we want to extend our sincere gratitude to the Government of Japan’s Self Defense Force, Coast Guard, law enforcement, mariners, and local Yakushima civilian volunteers for their tireless assistance in the search and rescue operations for our Airmen. Their selfless dedication in our time of need demonstrates the ironclad bond between our nations,” said Rear Adm. Jeromy Williams, Special Operations Command - Pacific commander. “We are resolved to locating our aircrew and bringing them home to their families.”

Units who will continue these operations include:

Japan Coast Guard
Japan Self-Defense Forces
United States Pacific Air Forces
United States Pacific Fleet
United States Marine Corps Forces, Pacific
Special Operations Command – Pacific
353rd Special Operations Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan
18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan
1st Special Forces Group

Support to, and the privacy of, the families and loved ones impacted by this incident remains a top priority.

Family members, military and government civilians whose lives have been impacted by recent events are encouraged to contact the Emergency Family Assistance Cell at afsoc.efac.org@us.af.mil or 850-884-4494.

“Today, we mourn the loss of our Airmen who perished in an aircraft accident off the coast of Japan. These brave American Airmen were training and honing their skills during the time of this tragic accident. Their dedication to our mission is an inspiration to us all and their loss is felt across the Department of the Air Force. Our efforts now turn to families, friends and teammates — we will honor the memory of those lost and support those who love them and miss them.” — Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall

“We will never forget the service and commitment of these Airmen. We will always honor their devotion to our country, and we will ensure the families of the fallen receive the respect, care, and support they deserve.” — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin

“I am deeply saddened by the devastating loss of eight of our brothers in arms,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. “No words can describe the sorrow felt in the wake of this tragic loss. Their unwavering dedication and sacrifice for our nation will be remembered forever. I extend my thoughts and prayers to their families, loved ones, and the entire 353rd Special Operations Wing. In this difficult time, let us come together to offer comfort and strength to one another.” — Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass
Source: U.S. Air Force