U.S. Air Force woman drowns at Tanaga Falls

A female U.S. airman drowned in an accident when she fell into a river during an outing with a group of 10 other Kadena service members in Aha, Kunigami Village, Saturday afternoon.

According to Nago Police, 19-year-old Shannon Purcell apparently slipped and fell into the basin of Tanaga Falls at Funagawa River.

Nago Police, Fire Department Rescue Team, and Kadena Rescue Squadron searched for Purcell, and found her in the bottom of the river about 5:20 p.m. A U.S. Air Force helicopter airlifted her to the U.S. Naval Hospital where she was confirmed dead at 6:30 p.m.

According to Okinawa Meteorological Observatory, heavy rain showers in the northern parts of Okinawa Main Island on Saturday morning had swollen the river and muddled the visibility that made the search difficult. The observatory recorded 29 millimeters of rain in Kunigami Village, and 27.5 millimeter in Nago City between 9 and 10 Saturday morning.

According to Nago Fire Department, Purcell was found on the bottom of the basin about eight meters deep, and about 13 meters from the waterfall.

The basin of the falls is a popular spot for foreigners and tourists who frequently come to swim and jump from the surrounding cliffs into the basin. There has been several accidents at the site and signs warning of deep water a high risk of accidents are posted both in English and Japanese on the site.

On the previous day, flash floods at Genkagawa in Nago City and Henangawa in Ohgumi Village caused a total of 54 visitors at Ta Waterfall become stranded. Nago ire Department rescue teams helped the stranded people away from their predicament and no one was hurt.