Rescue chopper with 9 crew crashes on central Japan mountain

TOKYO (AP) — A rescue helicopter has crashed in central Japan mountains hours after it lost contact and the condition of nine people aboard is not immediately clear.

The Defense Ministry says troops have found eight of the crewmembers at the crash site. The ninth man is missing.

Officials at the Gunma prefecture, north of Tokyo, said its Bell 412EP helicopter carrying seven local rescue workers and two crew from a flight service company lost contact an hour after takeoff Friday. The planned two-hour flight was to monitor a mountain trail opening for climbers this weekend.

Television footage showed debris of the helicopter scattered on the mountainside, apparently after it crashed while tearing down trees.

Officials say the cause of the crash is under investigation.