Japanese journalists die on mountain assignment

3:39 AM PST 08/02/2010 by Associated Press, AP

Nippon TV journalists were climbing to plane crash site

TOKYO -- Two Japanese journalists reported missing by their television network while pursuing a story of a helicopter crash were found dead on a mountain Sunday near the scene of the accident.

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

They were taken to a hospital and declared dead in the afternoon.

"I am filled with sadness that we lost two extremely talented and ambitious people," said Nippon Television President Tadanori Hosokawa at a press conference.

The network said it is investigating the accident and the journalists' preparations for the assignment.

The journalists began their trek Saturday morning, and Nippon Television said it contacted authorities after they did not return in the evening.

The area is not particularly dangerous for regular mountain climbing, said Kiyomitsu Yashiro, deputy chief of the Chichibu police department. 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.

The two journalists were found about just over a mile (two kilometers) from the crash site, police said.
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