Leaders address Friendship Day tent accident
IWAKUNI MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Japan — Local leaders met Thursday with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station public affairs officers to express their concerns about a mishap during the base’s Friendship Day festival.
Nine people were injured Wednesday when a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter’s rotor-wash lifted a VIP spectator tent at the festival, which drew approximately 150,000 people.
The MH-53E Sea Dragon demonstration was scheduled as part of the event’s air show, base officials said. Immediately after the mishap, Capt. Stewart Upton, a base spokesman, said he didn’t think any of the injuries were life-threatening.
Officials from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Iwakuni City and Yuu Town asked to know the cause of the accident. They also urged the JMSDF and U.S. Marine officials to take additional preventive measures to thwart a recurrence.
An Iwakuni city official told Stars and Stripes on Friday that the accident was regrettable, especially since it involved the public, and the city views the mishap “very seriously.”
A JMSDF spokesman declined to provide details on the victims’ conditions, citing privacy concerns.
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.
The JMSDF created a panel Thursday to investigate the accident, but the cause is still under investigation. The spokesman refused to comment further.