NAHA - The U.S. Marine Corps said Sunday one of its helicopters made an emergency landing on an islet in Okinawa the previous day after an instrument reading indicated the main rotor was “moving at too high a speed.”
None of the four crew members aboard was injured when the UH-1 helicopter landed on a sandy beach on Ikeijima Island. U.S. military personnel continued checking the aircraft Sunday morning and removed the main rotor.
“We are grateful that … no one was hurt and no property was damaged. The Marine Corps will rigorously investigate the cause of the incident,” a Marine Corps officer said.
The incident is the latest in a series of accidents and mishaps involving U.S. aircraft stationed in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in the country. The chopper belongs to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the main island of Okinawa.
Koichiro Nakajima, the Defense Ministry’s local bureau chief, told reporters after inspecting the helicopter that safety remains the priority.
“Flight safety is above everything else. We want (the U.S. military) to work toward that end,” he said.
Nakajima also met the head of the Ikeijima Island residents’ association, who strongly protested the accident.
The chopper apparently landed about 100 meters from a house, a resident said.
“If an aircraft falls on our houses, it will cause huge damage. If we lose lives, they will not return,” association head Masanori Tamaki, 61, said, adding the U.S. military should change its flight path.
Ikeijima Island, around 30 km northeast of the prefectural capital Naha, is connected Okinawa by a bridge. The island is the same one where an AH-1 attack helicopter based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma made an emergency landing on a farm path on Jan. 20 last year.
“I’m speechless. The frequency is too often. It cannot be helped but to think there’s a systemic problem within the U.S. military,” Okinawa Deputy Gov. Moritake Tomikawa told reporters.