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Kadena uncooperative in plane crash investigation

Date Posted: 2008-10-31

Okinawa Prefecture Police trying to investigate a plane crash in a sugar cane field near Nago City are being stymied by Kadena Air Base officials who have ignored requests to talk to the pilot and passengers.

The light Cessna airplane belonging to the Kadena Aero Club crash landed in the Makiya area field early Friday evening while returning from a flight to Kagoshima Prefecture’s Amamioshima. Four men were aboard the plane when it clipped power lines and struck the ground. Officials say the aircraft had run out of fuel, explaining why there was no post-crash fire.

Police say they’ve asked to speak with the four men to learn exactly what happened, but say Kadena officials have not responded to their request. Prefecture Police also want to know information about the flight, which originated at Kadena, and want to know if there was a flight recorder onboard.

Nago City Police are equally unhappy with Kadena. The aircraft wreckage was removed from the crash site Saturday and taken to the military base despite having been told by Okinawa Prefecture Police not to. Police want to know firsthand whether the plane did, in fact, run out of fuel. Minutes before the 6:30 p.m. crash the Defense Agency had received a call from Kadena, which operates the radar systems for flights on the island, asking for help, saying “our Cessna airplane has an empty fuel tank.”

Police say Kadena has refused to surrender the wreckage or provide access to it, despite inter-government agreements that allow it. They say the military has refused to even identify the four men on the ill-fated flight.

Military officials say only one of the four men aboard the plane was injured. No injuries occurred on the ground. The crash severed power lines, cutting electric service to dozens of homes.

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