Residents of Okinawa voiced shock and outrage Wednesday after a U.S. Corps’ MV-22 crash-landed in the sea off the southern Japan island prefecture the night before.
The first major accident involving the tilt-rotor transport aircraft in Japan reinforced a view held by many locals that the aircraft is accident-prone.
It also increased their resentment toward the central government for forcing the prefecture to continue bearing the heavy burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, according to Kyodo News.
“I only have anger,” a senior official of the city of Nago said.
“This kind of accident occurs because the Japanese government overloads Okinawa with bases. I wonder how much longer the state will continue to avoid looking at Okinawa’s situation,” the official said.
The relocation plan has been at the heart of political and legal wrangling between the state and the prefectural governments as the latter seeks to relocate the base outside the prefecture.
The accident is “really outrageous,” Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga told reporters.
The III Expeditionary Force on Thursday said MV-22 operations are in Japan after a crash off the coast of Okinawa.
Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commanding general of III Expeditionary Force, said the MV-22 rotor blade struck a refueling line while conducting an aerial refueling operation.
“After the aircraft was unhooking, it was shaking violently,” Nicholson said during a press conference on Wednesday. “The pilot made a decision to not fly over Okinawan homes and families. He made a conscious decision to try to reach Camp Schwab … and land in the shallow water to protect his crew and the people of Okinawa.”
Nicholson said two crew members were hospitalized.
Nicholson said he made the decision to temporarily halt MV-22 operations under U.S. Forces Japan until he is “satisfied that we have reviewed our checklists and safety of flight procedures.”
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