Spain's defense minister has acknowledged that his ministry wrongly reported that three crew members of a military helicopter that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean had been rescued. He now says all three are still missing.

Speaking late Friday at a press conference at an air force base in the Canary Islands, Pedro Morenes said a message received from Moroccan forces had been mistakenly understood to mean the crew had been rescued.

He blames a "distortion of information" for causing a lamentable state of uncertainty and confusion.

The helicopter ditched Thursday about 280 nautical miles (519 kilometers/320 miles) from its destination on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria having set off from Mauritania.