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Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, mayor of Nago City -- where a small airplane originating from Kadena Air Base made a crash landing Friday -- speaks to reporters Tuesday after filing a formal complaint with the Okinawa Area Coordinator over the handling of the investigation.
Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, mayor of Nago City -- where a small airplane originating from Kadena Air Base made a crash landing Friday -- speaks to reporters Tuesday after filing a formal complaint with the Okinawa Area Coordinator over the handling of the investigation. (Chiyomi Sumida / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The pilot of a U.S. government-owned Cessna was forced to land in a sugar cane field in Nago in October because he failed to refuel the plane, Air Force officials said Friday.

The Air Force’s investigation found that the plane — carrying the pilot and three other Americans — developed engine failure Oct. 24 after it ran out of gas during its return to Kadena Air Base, according to a report released Friday.

The plane, which belongs to Kadena Aero Club, was returning from Amami Island.

According to the report, all four men are airmen. They were not identified further in the report.

The pilot suffered minor injuries, and the emergency landing caused a temporary power outage to about 700 homes in the Makiya district in Nago, when the plane struck several electrical wires.

The report said the "pilot failed to use good judgment" and concluded that "due to improper fuel planning, the plane did not have enough fuel to make the entire trip."

The report has been released to the Okinawa Prefectural Police to determine whether the pilot faces negligence charges, said 18th Wing spokesman Maj. John Hutcheson.

Because the accident occurred on Japanese property, the Okinawa police would have the authority to press any charges against the pilot.

"The Okinawa Prefectural Police will review the investigation report — in addition to the investigation they’ve already done," Hutcheson said. "We hope that they will make a timely decision on whether or not to take some action."

Hutcheson said it has not been determined whether the pilot will face disciplinary action from the Air Force.

Okinawa police confirmed Friday that they had received the report, but declined to say whether they planned to press charges.

Following an on-site inspection of the damaged aircraft Oct. 25, the Air Force recovered the plane and denied requests from Okinawa police to confiscate the Cessna as evidence.

The incident prompted Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro to file a complaint with Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, Okinawa area coordinator and commander of Marine Corps Bases Japan.

Since the incident, flights from the Kadena Aero Club have been suspended until preventive measures and procedures can be reviewed, Hutcheson said.

The club serves as a flight training center and offers recreational island flight tours.

U.S. Forces Japan commander Air Force Lt. Gen. Edward Rice Jr. is reviewing recommendations offered in the report to determine which ones will be implemented, Hutcheson said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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