Recent Yokota graduate dies in Saitama crash
June 29, 2005
A recent Yokota High School graduate and a passenger died Saturday in a one-car wreck in Saitama prefecture, according to base officials.
Steffen Taplin, a 2005 Yokota High School graduate, died after losing control of his Nissan Skyline and crashing into trees around 2 a.m. Saturday, a base spokesman said.
The crash site is about 10 miles north of Yokota Air Base.
The front-seat passenger in the car also died and a rear-seat passenger suffered serious injuries, said Capt. Warren Comer.
Comer said Monday he did not know the nationalities of the passengers, but neither was affiliated with the U.S. military.
Saitama Prefectural Police said they could not release the passengers’ names but could release their nationalities. A police spokesman said the driver was an 18-year-old American student. The passenger killed was a 17-year-old Philippine national working in Japan. The spokesman said the injured passenger also was a Philippine national but he did not know the person’s age or injuries.
Japanese police said the wreck occurred on Highway 407’s southbound lane in the Shimotakahagi district of Hidaka City in Saitama.
The incident remains under investigation. Officials said it’s undetermined whether factors such as seat belt use or alcohol were involved or contributed.
Base leaders planned a memorial for Tuesday morning at Yokota’s Traditional Chapel. Taplin was the son of Master Sgt. Florence Taplin, Comer said.
“We are all deeply saddened by the loss and are sympathetic to Steffen’s family,” said Col. Scott Goodwin, 374th Airlift Wing commander in a written statement.
Yokota High School officials sent a note to parents about the death and gave contact information for counselors available to speak to students.
They also scheduled an open forum for bereaved students for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the high school lecture hall, according to a letter from principal Richard J. Schlueter II.
No further information would be available until Japanese police conclude their investigation, Comer said.