US military Osprey crash-lands off Ok­i­nawa, no fa­tal­i­ties

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A US military Osprey air­craft crash-landed off Ja­pan’s south­ern is­land of Ok­i­nawa af­ter its pro­pel­ler was dam­aged dur­ing re­fu­el­ing train­ing, and all five crewmem­bers were res­cued, the US Ma­rine Corps said yes­ter­day.

The Ma­rine Corps said in a state­ment that the MV-22 Osprey tilt-ro­tor air­craft landed in shal­low wa­ter off Ok­i­nawa’s east coast late Tues­day. Of­fi­cials said two crewmem­bers sus­tained non-life-threat­en­ing in­juries and were be­ing treated at a Navy hos­pi­tal.

The ac­ci­dent came a week af­ter a Ma­rine Corps pi­lot died when his F/A 18 fighter jet crashed off west­ern Ja­pan. Ma­rine Corps of­fi­cials said an­other Osprey had a land­ing gear prob­lem else­where on Ok­i­nawa dur­ing train­ing Tues­day, al­though there were no in­juries in that in­ci­dent.

The Osprey crash just off Nago City trig­gered protests on Ok­i­nawa, where anti-US military sen­ti­ment is strong. Many Ok­i­nawans op­pose de­ploy­ment of Ospreys on the is­land be­cause of safety con­cerns fol­low­ing a string of crashes out­side Ja­pan, in­clud­ing one in Hawaii last year. “This is what we have feared might hap­pen some­day,” Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine told pub­lic broad­caster NHK. “We can never live safely here.”

Lt. Gen. Lawrence Ni­chol­son, Ok­i­nawa area co­or­di­na­tor for the Marines, said the Osprey’s pro­pel­ler was dam­aged when it hit a fuel line dur­ing off­shore re­fu­el­ing. Its pi­lot landed the air­craft in shal­low wa­ter to avoid the dan­ger of flying over­land back to the base, he said. “That was his aim - to pro­tect his crew, and to pro­tect the peo­ple of Ok­i­nawa,” Ni­chol­son told a news con­fer­ence in Ok­i­nawa. “I hope you would all agree that we should be proud of our flight crew that took a bad sit­u­a­tion and pre­vented it from be­com­ing a dis­as­ter.”

Ni­chol­son said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ci­dent has be­gun and Osprey flights will be sus­pended in Ok­i­nawa for an un­spec­i­fied pe­riod un­til all safety pro­ce­dures are fully re­viewed. Flights else­where around the world will con­tinue, he said. The Osprey was based at Ma­rine Corps Air Sta­tion Futenma. The base, lo­cated in a crowded res­i­den­tial area in cen­tral Ok­i­nawa, is to be re­lo­cated to an­other site in Nago on the east coast of the is­land where res­i­dents op­pose the plan.

Ja­panese De­fense Min­is­ter To­momi Inada asked the US military to sus­pend Osprey flights un­til the cause of the ac­ci­dent is known. Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe told re­porters the crash was ex­tremely re­gret­table, and said safety must be guar­an­teed. More than half of the 50,000 Amer­i­can troops in Ja­pan are sta­tioned on Ok­i­nawa - which has less than 1 per­cent Ja­pan’s land mass - un­der a mutual se­cu­rity treaty. Many on the is­land com­plain about noise, pol­lu­tion and crime linked to the US military. — AP

NAGO, Ok­i­nawa, south­ern Ja­pan: Of­fi­cers of Ok­i­nawa Pre­fec­tural Po­lice and US military in­ves­ti­gate the site where de­bris of a US military MV-22 Osprey, back­ground, was spot­ted in shal­low wa­ters yes­ter­day. — AP

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