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Chopper drops car into coastal waters

Date Posted: 2006-12-22

An American Marines helicopter dropped a vehicle it was carrying from a sling beneath it, sending it plunging into waters off the northwest Okinawa coast.

Yomitan residents are angry, calling the action irresponsible and dangerous to citizens. The Marines are saying it was done only because the helicopter was caught in turbulence and had to cut the vehicle free to protect the chopper and crew.

The Marines were using a CH-53E helicopter to take the scrapped car to an off-island location to use in a training exercise. The vehicle was being hauled beneath the helicopter attached to a special two-point sling, but had to release it after the helicopter was caught up in bad weather.

“The U.S. Marines are lying to Okinawa,” says a Yomitan Village Fisherman’s Association staff member. “They’re saying it was because of turbulence, but the weather was fine and we didn’t see or feel any bad weather at all.” Others called it a military accident, and said they were shocked to see it splash into the ocean.

Both the U.S. military and the 11th Maritime Safety Agency had issued warnings to boaters and people on shore to be aware of the action, but residents are still upset. Some are demanding an investigation as to why it happened. A staff member at a nearby resort hotel says “I feel very sorry about Okinawa, because our people live with such a dangerous situation.

The Maritime Safety Agency says it won’t investigate, because “if it was deliberately dropped we could investigate, but it was not. This time there is no need for investigation.” Okinawa Prefecture Police concur, adding “there were no injuries or damage, so there’s no need to investigate.”

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