WASHINGTON – The U.S. government has promised to get to the bottom of the crash of a U.S. Air Force helicopter in Okinawa on Monday, responding to a strong protest by Japan during high-level talks, a senior Japanese official said.
“We lodged a strong protest” over the accident, Shinsuke Sugiyama, deputy foreign minister, told reporters after meeting Tuesday with Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs.
Sugiyama said he asked Sherman during their meeting at the State Department to make sure such accidents do not happen again. The U.S. side said it will do its utmost to probe the cause of the crash and provide relevant information to Japan, according to Sugiyama.
“The U.S. side said it was an accident that should never have happened,” he said.
The U.S. Air Force HH-60 helicopter crashed in a mountainous area in Camp Hansen, about 2 km from the nearest residential area. Earlier reports said there were four crew members aboard the chopper, including three who survived with injuries, and a corpse was found in or near the wreckage. The U.S. Navy has tentatively said the body was that of the fourth crew member.
The accident came amid opposition in Okinawa to the U.S. military’s deployment of Osprey transport aircraft due to past accidents overseas, including a fatal one.
On Wednesday, assembly members in the village of Ginoza submitted a petition to the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa bureau urging the government to push the U.S. to find out what caused the crash and take measures to prevent a recurrence. They later visited officials at the Kadena base to submit a similar petition.