US forces apologize to Okinawa school hit by falling chopper window, resumption of flights draws widespread ire

Xinhua
A school in Okinawa was offered an apology by US forces over a window falling from one of its helicopter last week and hitting the grounds where children were taking a sports class
Xinhua

An elementary school in Okinawa was offered an apology on Monday by US military officials over a window falling from one of its helicopter last week and hitting the grounds where some children were taking a sports class.

According to local reports from Japan's southernmost prefecture, Col. Darin Clarke from the US Marines' government and external affairs in the Pacific, apologized to Etsuko Kyan, principal of the Futenma Daini Elementary School.

Clarke said the incident had caused great unease in the school and the wider region, local reports said.

Although only one student sustained minor injuries as a result of the metal-framed window falling from the CH-53E transport helicopter, local concerns and anger were stoked by the accident, fueling rising anti-US military sentiment on the island.

Okinawa Deputy Gov. Moritake Tomikawa told a press briefing Monday he had been informed that US forces plan to resume flights of its CH-53E chopper, which had been grounded pending an investigation into the cause of the falling window.

The U.S. forces told both local government officials in Okinawa and the central government that the cause of the approximately 1-meter, 8-kg window falling from the chopper, was down to pilot error, with the verdict causing dismay and refutation among Japanese officials and citizens.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said the resumption of flights of the CH-53E helicopters was "truly ridiculous." He also accused the central government of being "incapable of being involved" as it failed to keep the flights grounded, while slamming the US military as "not a good neighbor," according to local accounts.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the government has "not received a sufficient explanation about US measures to prevent a repeat of the incident."

Parents of children attending the school were also quoted as saying they were disgusted at the flights being allowed to resume and that their restart was unforgivable and showed US indifference to the people of Okinawa.


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