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Rubber protective tape falls from helicopter onto school grounds in Okinawa, say U.S. Marines

Kyodo

The U.S. Marines in Okinawa said Wednesday that a piece of rubber protective tape attached to a wing blade of a U.S. military helicopter fell onto the grounds of a junior high school in Okinawa the previous day.

It was the latest incident involving a part falling from a military aircraft in the southern island prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan. No one was injured in the latest occurrence.

The tape, which landed on a tennis court at Uranishi Junior High School Tuesday afternoon, was initially described by school officials as a black rubber sheet around 12 centimeters long, about 18 cm wide and weighing 20 grams.

The U.S. Marine Corps said that the rubber tape is used to protect the tip of a CH-53E large transport helicopter wing blade, adding it will inspect its helicopters and replace blade tape where necessary.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government criticized the U.S. military for what it called “insufficient maintenance.”

“One wrong step could lead to a serious incident. It stirs concern among people in the prefecture and is extremely deplorable,” Deputy Okinawa Gov. Kiichiro Jahana told reporters Wednesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo that the government will “strongly” demand that the U.S. military take measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

The school is around 2 kilometers south of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in a crowded residential area in Ginowan. More than 20 students were at the tennis court when the incident occurred at around 3:35 p.m. Tuesday.

Many Okinawa residents are frustrated with noise, crimes and accidents linked to the presence of the U.S. military.

In December 2017, a window from a CH-53E helicopter fell onto the playground of an elementary school adjacent to the Futenma base. A different CH-53 part was also found on the roof of a nursery school near Futenma the same month, but the U.S. military has denied that it fell off during flight.

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