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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 October 18 - 24  > Only a week after crash, US military resumes CH-53E flights
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2017 October 18 - 24 [US FORCES]

Only a week after crash, US military resumes CH-53E flights

October 18 and 19, 2017
Amid mounting public criticism over the U.S. military CH-53E helicopter crash last week, Okinawa Area Coordinator for U.S. Forces Lawrence Nicholson on October 17 announced that flights of the same type aircraft will be resumed.

On October 11, a CH-53E stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma base in Okinawa crashed and burst into flames in a pasture in Higashi Village’s Takae district in the prefecture. The U.S. military grounded the same type of aircraft for 96 hours.

Concerning the decision to resume flights, Nicholson, the top-ranking officer of the U.S. military in Okinawa, said that the investigation of the crippled aircraft found no evidence of structural problems and that CH-53Es are fully operational. However, he did not provide to the Japan side the investigation results.

In response to the accident, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution in protest against the accident. A residents’ group in the Takae district demanded that the U.S. military stop using helipads located near the district.

On the day when the resumption of CH-53E flights was announced, the Higashi Village Assembly adopted a written statement demanding a halt to the operation of the helipads in Takae. The statement insists that the U.S. military should not fly CH-53Es before the cause of the accident is determined, that these aircraft should be removed from Okinawa, that compensation for damages caused by the accident should be paid, and that the accident site should be restored to its original condition.

***

The U.S. military on October 18 resumed the flights of CH-53E helicopters. One of the aircraft flew over the Takae community.

Governor Onaga Takeshi on the same day at a press conference condemned the resumption of flights as outrageous. He stressed that the six helipads in Takae should be closed and removed. This was the first time for Onaga to go so far as to affirm the need to remove the helipads.

Nakamine Kumiko, chief of the Takae district in Higashi Village, and Village Mayor Iju Seikyu visited USMC Camp Foster, the headquarters of 1st Marines Aircraft Wing at which the crashed helicopter is stationed, to lodge a protest against the resumption of CH-53E flights.

After lodging the protest, Nakamine said to the press, “Takae residents have yet to recover from the shock of the crash. U.S. officers we met just said, ‘The safety of CH-53Es was confirmed’ without providing information about the cause of the crash.” She said that she urged the U.S. military to ground CH-53Es and stop using helipads in Takae.

Asked by reporter about the fact that a CH-53E earlier on the same day flew over her district, Nakamine criticized the U.S. military as self-centered by saying that it gives priority to its training exercises over Okinawans’ safety.

A similar protest was filed by the liaison council of municipalities in the northern Okinawa area, where Higashi Village is located.

Past related article:
> Okinawans raise outcry against CH-53E copter crash in Takae [October 14 &16, 2017]
> US CH-53E chopper crashes near Takae community in Okinawa [October 12 &14, 2017]
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