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USFJ apologizes for helo flight over Okinawa school

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion conducts an external lift during helicopter support team training on Okinawa in August, 2015. (ROBERT GONZALES/U.S. MARINE CORPS)

U.S Forces Japan has apologized after an American military helicopter again flew over the Okinawan elementary school where a window dropped from a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion onto a playground in December.

According to a statement released by U.S. officials, the helicopter overflew Futenma Daini Elementary School — which is located along the northern fence line of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma — at around 3:30 p.m. Friday.

“Although U.S. Forces voluntarily ceased flights over the school to the greatest extent possible, a U.S. helicopter inadvertently overflew the school,” the statement said.

In the Dec. 13 incident, a window measuring approximately 3 feet by 3 feet inexplicably separated from a Super Stallion and fell onto a sports field at the school. More than 50 students were on the field at the time, and one child sustained a minor injury.

A week earlier, workers had discovered a small part from a Super Stallion on the roof of the nearby Midorigaoka nursery school, about 300 meters from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Staff and parents from the nursery school traveled from Okinawa to Tokyo in Feb. to complain that helicopters were still flying over their kids.

“Every day U.S. military helicopters and Ospreys fly over our nursery school,” the nursery school’s headmaster, Takehiro Kamiya, told reporters during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “There have been no apologies and no explanations of any kind to date.”

USFJ’s statement said an investigation is underway to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the latest overflight to prevent such flights from occurring again.

“USFJ is working closely with Japanese counterparts at all levels to transparently share information as soon as it becomes available,” the statement said.


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