Window falls from United States military chopper onto Okinawa school grounds

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A window from a USA military helicopter fell onto a school sports ground in southern Japan Wednesday, the marines said, apologising for a "regrettable" incident likely to fuel opposition to their presence.

According to the prefectural government and other sources, the object that fell on the school adjacent to the US Marine Corps' Futenma air base measured about 90 centimeters square and had been attached to the Marines' CH-53E large transport helicopter.

The Futenma base is surrounded by schools, hospitals and shops, and residents worry about air crashes. Residents complain about what they see as the unfair burden they carry in supporting the US military presence in Japan.

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The U.S. military admitted that the object was a window from a CH-53E helicopter belonging to the Futenma base and the aircraft immediately returned to base following the incident. "Despite repeated accidents, US military officials would not lend their ears to our concerns".

NHK cited eyewitnesses as saying that "a USA military helicopter was flying over the school at the time".

The US military said it was taking the incident "extremely seriously" and was opening an investigation.

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A 10-year-old boy suffered a minor injury but the exact cause was unclear, an Okinawa prefecture official told Reuters. Another helicopter belonging to the Futenma base crashed into a nearby university in 2004, injuring three US crewmembers.

The Japanese and US governments have been pushing a plan for the relocation of the Futenma base from a densely populated area of Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal district of Nago, also in Okinawa.

The Japanese Defense Ministry asked the USA military to halt flights of the CH-53E helicopters.

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