Ankara, Turkey- A Turkish official said Thursday that Ballard's deep-sea exploration vessel, E/V Nautilus, located the bodies Wednesday after the Turkish navy had pinpointed the area.
Turkish officials, after asking NATO allies for resources to help with the search, approached the Nautilus team via the U.S. Embassy in Ankara last week.
Celebrated ocean explorer and Titanic finder Bob Ballard, working for the Turkish government, has located the bodies of two Turkish pilots shot down by Syria over the eastern Mediterranean last month, the Turkish military said in a statement released Wednesday.
Ballard and his crew aboard his research vessel Nautilus are now working to recover the remains, the statement said. Turkey did not disclose whether the bodies were found in Syrian or international waters, and a Ballard representative aboard the ship declined to comment.
Ankara said a vessel owned by U.S. ocean explorer Robert Ballard, best known for discovering the wreck of the Titanic, has located the bodies of two Turkish pilots on the sea bed nearly two weeks after their jet was shot down by Syria.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
After recovering the bodies, the Nautilus will resume its hunt for the wreckage of the F-4 jet downed by Syria on June 22, the Turkish military statement said.
The Nautilus was anchored in Istanbul preparing for a two-month scientific expedition when the Turkish government asked for Ballard's assistance in its hunt for the U.S.-built jet and the two pilots.
Syria maintains the plane was within its airspace when it was shot down June 22, but Turkey disputes that. Territorial airspace extends 12 nautical miles offshore.
Turkey has said the aircraft was on a training mission and briefly and mistakenly entered Syrian airspace.
In an interview published in Turkey on Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he regretted the incident.
"We had absolutely no idea about the identity of the plane when we were shooting it down," President al-Assad said.
"We do not even want to think that this plane was deliberately and purposefully sent into our airspace. We want to think that the pilot made a mistake." he added.
U.S. ocean explorer Ballard led the international team that discovered the RMS Titanic in 1985, and also found the wrecks of the battleship Bismarck and the World War II PT-109 torpedo patrol boat that John F. Kennedy commanded.