US Army helicopter makes hard landing off Okinawa; 7 injured
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 12, 2015
This story has been updated.
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Seven servicemembers were injured Wednesday when the helicopter in which they were riding made a hard landing aboard a ship off the coast of Okinawa, according to U.S. Forces Japan officials.
The Army UH-60 Black Hawk was conducting a training mission when the incident occurred at 1:46 p.m. local time, a USFJ news release said.
The special operations aircraft attempted to land on the USNS Red Cloud, which was underway about 20 miles east of the island, between the northern cities of Nago and Uruma.
Japanese officials were informed of the crash at 2:59 p.m., when U.S. military officials called to request a search-and-rescue team.
There were 17 personnel on board the Black Hawk at the time of the crash, coast guard officials said. All were rescued by 4:12 p.m.
The injured were transported to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Foster, according to the USFJ news release. The extent of the injuries is not known at this time.
Five U.S. and two Japanese servicemembers were injured.
Japanese national broadcaster NHK showed video of the helicopter sitting on the Military Sealift Command ship, with its tail broken off and covered with an orange tarp.
Helicopter operations on Okinawa have remained a contentious issue with the island’s vocal protest movement, whose members are trying to persuade the national government to scrap plans to move operations from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in central Okinawa to a more northern part of the island.
Wednesday’s incident coincided with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s visit to the island for talks with Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, a vocal opponent of the relocation plan, according to The Associated Press.
“For those who live near (U.S.) bases, it’s a serious matter,” Onaga said at the outset of the talks, reminding Suga of Okinawa’s burden and risk of accommodating the U.S. military bases.
It’s the second military aircraft to go down this week. On Tuesday, a pilot safely ejected before his F-16 fighter jet crashed in southern Germany.
Both incidents remain under investigation.