U.S. helicopter window falls on Futenma Daini Elementary School grounds during P.E. class, Okinawa demands all flights suspended

U.S. helicopter window falls on Futenma Daini Elementary School grounds during P.E. class, Okinawa demands all flights suspended

School teachers inspecting the fallen window at Futenma Second Elementary School, December 13 (image provided by Ginowan City)


December 14, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo


A window from a CH-53 helicopter flying out of MCAS Futenma, measuring 90 sq. cm. and 7.7 kg, landed on the sports ground of Futenma Second Elementary School in Ginowan just after 10 a.m. on December 13.

The window landed about 10 meters from a P.E. class comprising around 60 2nd and 4th-grade students.

One student complained of arm pain from debris kicked up by the window, but there were no apparent injuries.


In protest of the U.S. forces stationed in Okinawa, the Prefectural government demanded that all U.S. military flights be suspended until the cause of the drop is determined and safety confirmed.

In addition, Okinawa demanded to the Japanese federal government that the cessation of operations at the Futenma Airfield, scheduled to happen within the next five years, be accelerated.

With CH-53 accidents happening one after another, it was inevitable that there would be backlash from the people of Okinawa.


Since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1971, there have been 69 incidents of parts falling from American military vehicles, including the incident at Midorigaoka Nursery School on December 7.


The window appears to be acrylic with a metal frame.

The Ginowan police investigated the scene and collected the window.

They are continuing to investigate if there is a case for charges such as injury due to negligence.


Brigadier General Paul J. Rock Jr., commanding General of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, gave his apology at the Okinawa Prefectural Office after hearing their protests, and indicated that, “All CH-53 helicopters were grounded [after the incident] and are currently not flying, but would not confirm that all flights would be suspended per the Okinawan government’s demand.


Governor Takeshi Onaga, Okinawa policy co-ordination director Katsuhiro Yoshida, and Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima each visited the scene of the incident on December 13 after hearing the news.

Governor Onaga traveled to Tokyo on the 14th to protest to the federal government.


Futenma Second Elementary School Principal Etsuko Kyan also demanded to Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) chief Koichiro Nakajima that there be no flights over the school.

Kyan told reporters, “We will not be able to use the sports ground until we have confirmation that there will be no flights overhead.”


The Okinawan Police have asked the military to inspect the helicopter from which the window dropped as well as question the passengers, but there has not been a response from the military as of yet.


Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera indicated at a press conference December 13 at Haneda Airport his intention to request that the U.S. military voluntarily restrict flights.

ODB chief Nakajima has also requested that flights stop.


According to the Ministry of Defense, the window was from the left side of the cockpit.

The window fell as the helicopter passed over the school just after takeoff. The helicopter returned to base shortly thereafter.


Okinawa vice-governor Moritake Tomikawa handed out letters of protest the afternoon on December 13 at the prefectural office to Tsukasa Kawada, Ambassador in charge of Okinawan Affairs; Brigadier General Rock; and Joel Ehrendreich, Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Naha.


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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