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‘No known danger’ after recent deaths at Air Force base in Tokyo, wing commander says

Col. Andrew Campbell, commander of the 374th Airlift Wing, speaks about recent deaths at Yokota Air Base, Japan, in this screenshot from a video released Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

U.S. AIR FORCE

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 19, 2021

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – The commander of the largest U.S. military base in Tokyo has moved to assure residents they are safe after the body of a man who had been missing for 16 days was found in his own apartment building on the installation.

“Over the past 12 months our base has experienced the deaths of six members,” Col. Andrew Campbell, who leads Yokota’s 374th Airlift Wing, said in a video message posted on the base’s official Facebook page Thursday evening.

The most recent reported death was that of Trevor Balint, 34, of Hubbard, Ohio. Balint, the spouse of Defense Department computer programmer and analyst Britni Balint, disappeared Feb. 1, prompting a search of the base from the ground and the air. His body was found Tuesday morning in the eastside housing tower where the couple lived.

On Feb. 9, while the search for Balint was still underway, the base announced the death of a Defense Department dependent identified a week later as Kayla Ash, wife of a 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron member.

Campbell, in his video message Thursday, offered condolences to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones.

“I also want to reassure our community that these deaths, while each tragic, reflect no known danger to our community at large … any danger to the community that an investigation might discover would have been or will be appropriately addressed.”

Some base residents have taken to social media, including the comment sections of posts made on Yokota’s official Facebook page, to express their concerns about safety amid the search for Balint and the recent deaths. Others have been critical of the base’s efforts to find the missing man and the sharing of information.

Balint’s mother-in-law, Denise Simion Mott, 56, of Brookfield, Ohio, told Stars and Stripes in a Facebook message Wednesday that the base’s efforts to find her son-in-law fell short.

“They assured my daughter that all buildings and storage units had been searched,” said Mott, who arrived at Yokota on Feb 12. “To be found in his own building 16 days after disappearing is severely troubling.”

Campbell asked the community to keep faith with law enforcement teams.

“Day and night, they embody service before self as they vigilantly provide for our community safety and security,” he said in the video.

The Air Force is still investigating the deaths of both Balint and Ash.

In November, a probe was launched into the death of a Security Forces dog handler, Senior Airman Edwin Leyva, who was pronounced dead Nov. 1 at Yokota’s Urgent Care Center.

Another Yokota community member, Peter James Davidson Jr., 51, a civilian aircraft maintainer, died of head injuries after an Oct. 31 motorcycle accident.

When asked Friday about the other two deaths mentioned in Campbell’s video, a wing spokesman, 1st Lt. Stuart Thrift, said releasable information about all six deaths had already been announced by the wing.

“I ask for the public’s patience and understanding, especially regarding information about the circumstances surrounding any death in our community,” Campbell said in his video message.

In all cases of death, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations completes a thorough investigation, Campbell said.

“These investigations take time. It may take several months,” he said. “The integrity of these investigations prevents us from prematurely sharing many of the details about each case, and even when complete many details may not be released out of respect for the deceased and his or her loved ones.”

Community members should rely on credible sources of information, Campbell added.

“The 374th public affairs office speaks for me and the wing and can be countered on to deliver facts not sensationalism or speculation,” he said.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

 

Trevor Balint poses for a photo with his corgi, Mr. Waffles, in this undated photo taken inside his apartment at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
BRITNI BALINT