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Light plane crash injures two near Nago

Date Posted: 2008-10-25

The pilot of a small Cessna aircraft issued an emergency call that his plane was running out of fuel, then crash landed in a sugar cane field near Nago City early Friday evening.
The small private plane operating from Kadena Air Base had been returning from a flight to Kagoshima Prefecture’s Amamioshima when the aircraft disappeared from military-operated radar shortly before 6:30 p.m. It crashed moments later in Nago’s Makiya area, seriously injuring two of the four people aboard the single engine plane. There were no injuries on the ground.
As the crash landing occurred about 6:30 p.m., youngsters were participating in baseball practice on nearby school grounds. “Oh my God,” a boy exclaimed. “It’s crashing…falling down. Run. Run.” Authorities say the four occupants of the plane were quickly rescued by Japanese fire and para-rescue teams. Two slightly injured were taken to a northern Okinawa Prefecture hospital, while two more severely injured were taken to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Lester.
The plane clipped high voltage power lines and telephones as it headed for the sugar cane field, leaving more than a dozen homes without power for several hours Friday night. The plane caught fire during the incident. Local fire department officials had the fire extinguished within two hours. Traffic in the area was snarled for nearly ten hours as gawkers flocked to the scene, blocking Highway 58 and adjacent side roads.
Investigations are under way, and others being sought, as officials determine who’s responsibility the crash falls on. The plane reportedly belongs to an Aero Club at Kadena Air Base, making it, officials say, a U.S. aircraft. Others say the civilian nature of the plane warrants the crash being treated like any other. American military police are asking for authority to remove the plane from the crash site to a military installation, but Okinawa Prefecture Police have rejected the demand.
Okinawa’s governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, says “It was good there was no damage or injury to anyone,” but added the accident “has caused anxiety for local people, and I regret it.” He’s told prefecture officials to investigate thoroughly and make sure safety measures are in place to prevent a reoccurrence. Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, Nago City’s mayor, says he visited the crash site and saw the debris, noting “If this plane had crashed into residents’ homes, it would have been a big disaster.” Shimabukuro says he’ll join the governor in pressing for a full investigation.

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