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U.S. to suspend flights of CH-53E choppers until cause of crash found

Staff Writer |
Municipalities in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa on Tuesday were informed by the U.S. military that flights of its CH-53E transport helicopters will be suspending until the cause of a recent crash-landing of one of the choppers is released.

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According to local media reports, the mayor of Uruma, Toshio Shimabukuro, visited Camp Zukeran on Tuesday to lodge a protest over the crash-landing of a CH-53E on Oct. 11 near the U.S. Northern Training Area.

The area, which straddles the villages of Higashi and Kunigami, has six new helipads, and drills over residential areas increased of late, leading to growing concerns about accidents, local officials said.

Shimabukuro heard from a senior Marine Corp officer that the CH-53E helicopters will remain grounded until investigations determine whether the problem was only with the chopper that made a crash-landing or is a fault in all of the choppers.

Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera had said that he expected the helicopters to be grounded indefinitely until their safety can be ensured.

But following the crash, the U.S. Marine Corps in Japan said that it had ordered a "96-hour operational pause" for the CH-53E helicopters stationed in Okinawa.

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