Japanese TV journalists covering chopper crash found unresponsive in pool of water on mountain

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Missing Japanese journalists found unresponsive

TOKYO — Two Japanese journalists reported missing by their television network were found unresponsive on a mountain Sunday, though police said an official declaration of death would have to wait until they could be taken to a hospital.

Nippon Television reporter Yuji Kita and cameraman Jun Kawakami had been on their way to the scene of a helicopter crash that killed five people last weekend. The two men were discovered in a pool of water in a gorge about 980 feet (300 meters) below a mountain trail in Chichibu city, about two hours northwest of Tokyo.

An official declaration of death could only be made by a doctor, said Kiyomitsu Yashiro, deputy chief of the Chichibu police department. Rescuers were still trying to transport the two journalists from the mountain to a hospital, he said.

The journalists began their trek early Saturday morning. Nippon Television said it contacted authorities after they had not returned in the evening.

The area is not particularly dangerous for regular mountain climbing, Yashiro said, but Kita, 30, and Kawakami, 43, appeared to have been scaling a steep gorge.

“It quite easy to hit branches or the surrounding walls, so you can assume accidents will occur,” he said.

Their goal was to reach the area where a rescue helicopter had crashed last Sunday. The chopper was on its way to aid a fallen climber.

Five of the seven on board were killed, including two pilots, a firefighter and two rescue workers. The 55-year-old female climber, who fell into a waterfall basin the previous day, died later.

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