WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine who went into the sea from a V-22 Osprey during a flight mishap over the northern Gulf this week was the first American killed in U.S. military operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Corporal Jordan Spears, 21, of Memphis, Indiana, was a crewman aboard a V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft flying off the USS Makin Island and went into the sea when the aircraft lost power shortly after takeoff, the Navy said on Friday.
The V-22 descended to the surface of the ocean during the mishap on Wednesday. Spears and a second air crewmen went into the water when it appeared the tilt-rotor aircraft was about to crash, but the two pilots were able to regain control of the craft and landed it safely back on board the Makin Island.
One air crewman was recovered and was in stable condition aboard the Makin Island. A search and rescue operation for the missing crewman was called off on Thursday and the Navy said he was presumed lost at sea.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, confirmed on Friday that the Marine's unit had been supporting current operations in the Gulf, including the current battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
"That squadron and that ship were in the Gulf supporting Central Command operations," Kirby said, referring to the combatant command responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East region.
"Some of those operations included operations in Iraq and Syria, at least tangentially," he said. "So there's no question that this Marine's death is related to the operations that are going on in some form or fashion."
The Navy and Marine Corps are investigating the cause of the mishap.
The V-22 takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter but the twin rotors at the end of its wings tilt after takeoff and allow it to fly like an airplane.
The V-22 had a rocky start because of mishaps during development, but it has won kudos for performance since entering into service.
(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)