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GINOWAN, Okinawa — U.S. Marines have grounded all CH-53 helicopters on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the wake of Friday’s crash of a Sea Stallion medium-lift helicopter into a university building.

“All CH-53 helicopters will be grounded until a safety inspection is complete,” 2nd Lt. Antony Andrious, public affairs officer for Marines on Okinawa, said Sunday. He said other types of helicopters would continue to fly and the CH-53s would be put back into service as each completes the safety check.

Three crew members were injured, one seriously, when the helicopter crashed Friday afternoon some 330 yards from the fence line to the Marine air station. Witnesses say they saw the tail rotor blade detach from the aircraft and the helicopter then zigzag as it lost altitude, before crashing into the side of the university’s administration building.

No civilians were reported injured. Aircraft debris was discovered throughout a nearby residential district. The helicopter fell to the ground at the base of the school building, then burst into flames in a series of explosions.

The CH-53D helicopter was attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265. The crew members were from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and have been on Okinawa since April as part of the six-month Unit Deployment Program.

Their unit, Marine Heavy Squadron 463, is due to rerun to Hawaii in the fall.

— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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