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Prefecture still demanding answers in military crash

Date Posted: 2006-08-18

With only a year remaining on the statute of limitations for action, Okinawa Prefecture Police are pressing for direct contact with the pilots of a military helicopter that crashed in August 2004.

The Marine Corps heavy lift chopper crash landed onto the campus of Okinawa International University, just outside Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, on August 13th, brushing against the administration building before catching fire. Prefecture Police have been investigating, and say the American military pilot may have violated the law by performing a dangerous aviation action warranting punishment. The problem, they say, is for the accident to be proven or certified, is that they have not been allowed to interrogate the pilot and engineers. Police say they can’t interrogate them without the military’s agreement, and that hasn’t happened. Instead, Prefecture Police say the investigation has been left in the hands of the American side. One officer said within a year, the scandal began looking like an unfinished investigation at all.

Prefecture Police say they’ve finished all they can do, interviewing witnesses and local residents. Now they want to talk to aviation scientists and space engineers to get their opinions, showing them accident scene photographs and the American reports. The U.S. side is refusing verification of the accident crash data. Police say the U.S. military has never answered questions addressed to pilots and engineers.

Prefecture Police Detective Seijin Kikuyama says “we’ll do our best to prove this accident, for sure.” Another policeman accused the Japanese government of covering up the accident, saying “Japanese states look like they don’t do anything for resolving the accident, and anyway, the Japanese government has paid compensation money to the University already.”

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