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Farmers demand payment for fields damaged in crash

Date Posted: 2008-10-31

“My sugar cane field is a mess” says a Nago City area farmer whose crop was damaged by a single engine aircraft that plowed into it making a crash landing Friday night.

The farmer says “I lost my sugar cane. It’s flattened down, so I have no sugar left for shipment.” Seiichi Nagata has told Nago City’s mayor “I want the American military to pay compensation. My income comes from this sugar cane and it’s gone.” The 59-year-old sugar farmer isn’t alone in his demand for payment from the U.S.

An 83-year-old woman who raises sweet potatoes at the crash site says he, too, wants the Americans to pay. “I lost my sweet potatoes,” says Yasuko Miyahira. “I felt so afraid when I heard about the accident, and I want the Americans to pay compensation and make my field back to its original condition.”

The crash has refueled political demands Americans stop flying over populated civilian areas, quickly pay compensation for damages, and to explain and apologize to residents. The Kadena base commander, Colonel Kelly Fletcher, visited the crash site over the weekend before making a call to the Nago City mayor, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, to apologize.

That wasn’t enough, says Makiya area director Kenji Kina. “Why did Colonel Fletcher not come and apologize to us. He should come to our place.”

Some politicians are already comparing the Friday Cessna crash with an August 2004 crash of a U.S. Marine Corps heavy lift helicopter onto the campus of Okinawa International University. They say the U.S. military’s lack of cooperativeness in connection with last week’s crash is hampering the investigation, as was done after the helicopter crash four years ago.

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