Japanese Officials Suspect Crashed CH-53E Helicopter Carried Low-level Radioactive Isotope

Officials of Japan’s Okinawa Prefectural government suspect that the US Marines’ Sikorsky Ch-53E Helicopter which crashed on Wednesday may have been equipped with a safety device that contained a low-level radioactive isotope.

However, when the officials tried to conduct environmental tests at the crash site Wednesday night, they were denied entry by the US military, Kyodo news agency reported.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the Defense Ministry and the Self Defence Forces (SDF) to use their expertise in looking into the cause of the latest incident rather than solely relying on US probes, a senior government official told Kyodo.

Local police dispatched officers and cordoned off the accident site, investigating the case for a possible violation of a Japanese law on endangering aviation.

But it remains unknown whether Japanese authorities can probe the cause as they do not have the power to search or seize assets of the US military without its consent under the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement.

Meanwhile, US forces in Japan will ground all CH-53E helicopters to confirm their safety after the same type of chopper crash-landed near a US military training area in Okinawa on Wednesday, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said, as reported by Kyodo.