9 injured in tent accident at Iwakuni Friendship Day
Nine people were injured Wednesday when a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter’s rotor-wash lifted a spectator tent at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station’s annual Friendship Day.
The MH-53E Sea Dragon demonstration was scheduled as part of the event’s air show when the mishap occurred at about 2:30 p.m., said Capt. Stewart Upton, a base spokesman.
“The tent was in the area for VIP spectators located near the flight-line demonstration area,” he said Wednesday evening. “Some bystanders in the VIP area attempting to hold down the tent were injured as well, as were some visitors seated or walking directly behind the VIP tent during the time the incident took place.”
Upton said he didn’t think any of the injuries were life-threatening. Friendship Day events were delayed by about 30 minutes because of the incident.
Three VIP tents were set up for the show. The helicopter’s rotor-wash “was oriented toward the tent on the end. I was one of the people holding down a tent pole when we felt it begin to move a little,” Upton said.
“Then, as part of the demonstration, the helicopter came closer, pulled up its nose, and the tent just kind of took off.”
Upton said the names of those injured are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. Two victims are base residents, including a man with a facial laceration and a 36-year-old woman with a foot laceration requiring stitches and a twisted ankle. Both received treatment at Iwakuni’s Navy Branch Medical Clinic.
Four other injured people were transported by Japanese ambulance to Iwakuni National Hospital for treatment, Upton said, including:
• A 4-year-old boy with a facial cut and head injury.
• A 4-year-old girl with a cut on her leg.
• A man and woman whose faces were cut.
Two other injured visitors were taken by Japanese ambulance to Iwakuni Doctors’ Association Hospital, including a 52-year-old man with an injured left knee and a 42-year-old man with a cheekbone fracture and head injury.
Another child had minor cuts not requiring hospital treatment, Upton said.
Iwakuni National Hospital officials confirmed that about four people were brought there but declined to give further details. Iwakuni Doctors’ Association Hospital declined comment.
JMSDF authorities and the Iwakuni Police Department are investigating the positioning of the VIP tents and the helicopter’s maneuvers, the spokesman said.
Col. David T. Darrah, the base commander, apologized to the families of those injured, according to a news release issued by the base Wednesday night.
“We are fairly certain we had more visitors here this year than last year,” Upton said. “So we know more than 150,000 attended today, but I haven’t learned yet exactly how many were here.”
— Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.