Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked the United States military forces based in Okinawa to suspend helicopter operations in the area as the investigation of the fatal crash yesterday continues. While three of the four crew were rescued already, the search for the fourth missing member was called off with the discovery of remains at the crash site.
An American HH-60 helicopter crashed and burned in a forest at the Camp Hansen Marine base late Monday afternoon with a smoke cloud from the site seen for about two miles outside the training area. According to the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, the three rescued crew members are in stable condition at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. The remains found at the site on Tuesday have still not been identified, but officials say it is most likely the missing airman. There was some confusion on Monday, when the Ministry of Defense reported that the fourth crew had been taken to the hospital, which was later retracted as details became clearer.
Abe told reporters that he has asked the US military to “take preventative measures, share information and pursue the cause of the accident,” and to temporarily halt all operations using the same type of helicopter that crashed. The base is located on the southernmost province of Okinawa and is home to tens of thousands of military personnel which the residents around the bases have had to live with for decades. There has been a lot of protests about the heavy US military presence in the area, with the latest concerns about the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the Futenma Air Base. The Ospreys have been plagued with technical and safety problems which the US military claims have already been fixed. This latest incident will stoke more unrest from the residents and the prefectural officials as well.
[ via Yahoo ]