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Careless US GI’s irritate cops, public after accident

Date Posted: 2007-05-18

A tractor-trailer accident on the Okinawa Expressway snarled traffic for hours, but the real public outrage didn’t come from being stuck in the traffic jam, but from attitudes of American Marines at the scene.

The accident involved a Marine Corps truck and trailer, which swerved and overturned while passing a small car on the expressway between Kin and Ishikawa interchanges. Police say the trailer filled with tables, chairs and containers swerved to avoid striking the car, and overturned. The truck’s driver and passenger suffered only minor injuries.

Hundreds of cars were backed up more than four kilometers on the expressway, blocking the exit to Uruma City, Ishikawa Highway 58 and Kin Town road. The traffic jam stalled drivers for more than three hours before highway officials were able to open one traffic lane.

Angry motorists were more infuriated by American Marines smoking alongside the accident scene, despite the fact oil was leaking from the vehicle and trailer. “Be careful of fire,” police warned the Americans. “You can’t smoke because of the leading oil.” Bystanders called the Marines careless, and showing few signs of concern over the accident they caused.

Motorists had to wait hours before a guardrail was repaired, and asphalt put into deep gouges in the roadway. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace, 50kph, for more than an hour as cars filtered into the single lane moving southbound.

The Marine Corps issued an apology, saying “We are very sorry about giving so much trouble to Okinawan people, and for the anxieties and inconvenience. We are investigating why this accident happened.” The Japanese Defense Agency Naha District was also quick to warn the Marines, telling leaders to give more safety education to drivers.

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