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Transport minister Seiji Maehara sacked the head of a regional Japan Coast Guard office and his deputy Friday over a public relations debacle following a helicopter crash last month in the Seto Inland Sea that killed all five on board.

The dismissal of Toshihiro Hayashi, head of the 6th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, and his deputy, Kiyoshi Nakamura, effective Sept. 10, stems from the “seriousness of the deaths of five people and the concealment of the fact (that the coast guard helicopter had been conducting) demonstration flights,” Maehara said at a news conference.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has jurisdiction over the maritime police force.

Hayashi will be replaced by Motomi Miki, who now heads the 2nd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters based in Miyagi Prefecture.

The 6th regional headquarters initially said the helicopter, with five coast guard members on board, was on a patrol mission when it crashed into the Seto Inland Sea on Aug. 18.

But the headquarters said the following day that the helicopter’s mission actually included conducting demonstration flights for a group of judicial apprentices on board a coast guard patrol boat and that it was in between such sessions.

Nakamura then admitted at a news conference Aug. 21 that he, Hayashi and other senior officials at the regional office had been informed earlier that the helicopter was involved in demonstration flights but had decided not to disclose the fact.

Later that day, Hayashi apologized publicly for withholding the information, saying that while he had no intention of concealing it, he determined that it did not have to be mentioned because the area where the demonstration was held was far away from the crash site.

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