• Kyodo

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Okinawa police will conclude their investigation into the crash of a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter at a local university in August 2004 after handing the case over to prosecutors without identifying any suspects, informed sources said Saturday.

Under the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement, which requires that Japanese authorities obtain U.S. consent before investigation and seizure, the police have faced difficulty conducting searches in regards to the incident, the sources said.

The police are likely to send papers to prosecutors in late June, before the statute of limitations will apply to the case in August, the sources said.

On Aug. 13, 2004, a CH-53D transport helicopter from the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station crashed at Okinawa International University in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture. Local police obtained a warrant to conduct an on-site investigation, but the U.S. side refused it, based on the bilateral agreement.

The police were finally allowed to conduct on-site searches six days after the accident, by which time the U.S. side had removed the helicopter’s wreckage.

The crash damaged the walls of the university’s main building and injured three of the crew.

The Japan-U.S. investigation panel indicated shortly after the accident that the helicopter became uncontrollable after a bolt securing the tail rotor came off.

The accident angered local citizens, who called for either the closure of Futenma air station or the return of the land it sits on.

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