“I felt it was dangerous because the helicopter was lowering altitude and heading toward the coast with a rattling noise,” he said. “The U.S. military always prioritizes military operations and neglects the anxieties of local residents,” said Tamaki, who heads the local residents’ association.
On Sunday, Japanese law enforcement detained Lance Cpl. Nicholas James-McLean over a fatal road accident. The US marine is said to have ignored a red light, crashing his two-ton military truck into a vehicle driven by a 61-year-old local man, who was later pronounced dead in hospital. According to the results of a breath test, James-McLean’s blood alcohol level was three times over the limit allowed in Japan.
US military personnel and civilian contractors working for American forces have been accused of multiple crimes in Okinawa this year. From January to October 2017, two have been arrested on allegations of robbery, two on allegations of rape and six on allegations of violent offenses, according to the Okinawa Prefecture Police website. Last year, US sailors in Japan were banned from drinking for an 11-day period after a petty officer was accused of driving on the wrong side of the road, hitting two cars and injuring two people, while under the influence of alcohol. In 2016, two incidents in the space of three months prompted widespread public anger -- in March, a US service member was arrested on suspicion of raping a Japanese tourist, and in May, a civilian contractor at a US base in Okinawa was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman.
After a shaky development history that included several deadly high-profile crashes, the Osprey became a symbol of the anti-base resistance on Okinawa in 2012 when it arrived on the island to replace the Marines’ aging fleet of Sea Knight helicopters. The aircraft has since been the focal point of near daily protests, and expelling it from the island was a major campaign promise of Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s during the 2014 election.
According to the US official, the Osprey crashed after clipping the back of the USS Green Bay while trying to land on the amphibious transport ship. The Okinawa-based aircraft which crashed was in Australia as part of a joint military exercise called Talisman Sabre, which has just ended in Queensland state.