US Military Apologizes After Dropping Helicopter Parts On Elementary School In Japan

Violet Powell
December 14, 2017

Japanese officials have said a boy has been injured in Okinawa after a metal window frame fell from a USA military helicopter.

The helicopter returned to the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located about 2.3 kilometres (1.4 miles) from the school, immediately after the incident.

The latest incidents are likely to further fuel opposition to the USA military presence on Okinawa, where about half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are stationed and where local residents have expressed concerns about military crime and safety.

Tuesday's incident came less than a week after a part from another Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter fell onto the roof of another school in Okinawa. Safety concerns were recently rekindled by a series of accidents involving U.S. Marines Osprey aircraft and another CH-53E helicopter that belong to the Futenma base. "It is unforgivable that it dropped in the middle of the playground", Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said in response.

One elementary school student was just five meters away from the object when it crashed to the ground, city assembly members who visited the site said.

The US Marines in Okinawa issued a statement apologising for the mishap: "We take this report extremely seriously and are investigating the cause of this incident in close coordination with local authorities".

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Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga also said the incident "creates anxiety" and "should never happen", Reuters reported.

Takehiro Kamiya, the nursery school's principal, said Tuesday, "I don't want the prefectural and central governments to accept without question what the US military says".

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said he wants the USA military to suspend flights of the same type of helicopter until safety is confirmed, Kyodo said.

Its planned relocation, pushed by the Japanese and USA governments, has been delayed for more than 20 years because many residents want it entirely off of Okinawa.

Roughly half of the 50,000 USA troops based in Japan are stationed on the tiny southern island of Okinawa.

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