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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The club Playmates in the downtown Sasebo area known as Sailor Town was ordered off-limits to all status-of-forces-agreement personnel following the death of a civilian contractor who toppled down a staircase there.

Personnel frequenting Playmates can face disciplinary action. Base commanders are authorized to issue such orders to SOFA-sponsored civilians as well as military members, Dale Sonnenberg, U.S. Forces Japan deputy staff judge advocate, has said.

Capt. Tilghman Payne, base commander, ordered the club temporarily off-limits subject to review by the base’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, base spokesman Charles T. Howard said Wednesday.

Jeffrey Paul Abel, 44, died Nov. 22 after falling down the stairs outside Playmates at approximately 2:20 a.m. Nov. 15, Howard said. “Abel is the second person to die after falling down the stairs outside Playmates in the past three years,” he said.

“An emergency off-limits order was placed on the club,” Howard said, adding that Sasebo’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Review Board, consisting of shore command personnel, will write the club owner detailing corrective measures required to have the order lifted.

Howard declined to disclose the contents of such letters, saying they’re between the board and the businesses involved.

“Generally, the letter will address such issues as safety, underage drinking or business practices, as required,” he added.

Once an investigation is finished and the review board makes its recommendation, specific areas of noncompliance might be made public, officials said.

Officials also declined to provide specifics leading to Club Flava being placed off-limits in August. That club, also in the Sailor Town area, remains off limits, officials said.

Abel, a contractor for Virginia-based Technology Management Group, was in Sasebo for an employment project with the Sasebo Detachment of Ship Repair Facility Yokosuka, Howard said. Abel’s family was at his bedside at Sogo Hospital in Sasebo when he died, the spokesman said.


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