U.S. paratrooper lands in farmer’s field
OKINAWA — Okinawan officials are protesting the errant jump of an Army paratrooper who landed in a farmer’s field on Ie Shima on Wednesday.
Although no one was injured and the only damage was to the plastic sheet covering a tobacco field, officials said they fear a missed jump could someday end in tragedy.
“It happened again, despite our protests,” Ie Shima Mayor Seitoku Shimabukuro told the Ryukyu Shimpo, referring to an incident last May in which five paratroopers landed outside the drop zone.
That was the first training mishap since parachute drops resumed after an October 2002 accident in which a 166-pound bundle fell on a field just outside the airfield.
“We were relieved when the military assured us with new safety measures,” Shimabukuro told the Japanese-language newspaper.
“But it’s happened again.”
The paratrooper was one of nine soldiers to jump over the auxiliary airfield shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Defense Facilities Administration Bureau in Naha.
He landed in a field about 100 yards from the airport’s fence line and about 300 yards from the nearest home.
“All subsequent jumps for the day were canceled,” said Tim Dougherty, a 10th Area Support Group spokesman at Torii Station.
“The Army regrets the incident and although there were no injuries and no damage to any crops, we consider the health and welfare of the residents of Okinawa paramount. We will continue to strive for an accident-free environment.”
A DFAB official said a request was filed with the U.S. Forces Japan representative on Okinawa to prevent a recurrence. DFAB officials traveled to Ie Shima on Thursday morning to check the site and gather information on the incident, according to an agency spokesman in Naha.
The prefectural government also is filing a protest.
“This happened in an area where local residents routinely tend their farms,” said Choki Kuba, director of the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s Military Affairs Office.
“Should one step go wrong, it could have been a major disaster. Therefore, we should never take the accident lightly. It is extremely alarming because it happened even after the military took preventive measures following the last incident. We thought the safety measures were working. It is, therefore, very regrettable that such an accident happened again.”
He called for stricter safety measures from the U.S. military.
“We understand that the military needs to train and weather is a big factor that controls such training,” he said. “However, an accident such as this is not acceptable.”