A metal piece from a U.S. military jet coming in for landing struck a moving car on a public road near the U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Feb. 8.
"There was a sudden thumping sound. When I stopped and got out of the car, I saw a number of fragments on the ground," the driver, a 59-year-old male, was quoted by prefectural police as saying.
The vehicle’s roof was dented. The driver was not injured.
The office of the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, said the parts fell off an EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft that was landing at the Atsugi base.
The largest fragment measured 218 by 107 centimeters. South Kanto Defense Bureau officials said six aluminum alloy panels, each measuring 130 by 60 cm, were found at the scene. The metal parts, thought to be covers for the jet’s engine, were recovered by U.S. military police.
U.S. military sources said the larger parts probably weighed in the range of tens of kilograms.
A passer-by spotted the debris on a prefectural road in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, near the northern perimeter of the Atsugi base, around 2 p.m. and notified the prefectural police and the South Kanto Defense Bureau, which is part of the Japanese Defense Ministry.
The road and the Sagami Railway run parallel with each other to the north of the base, but much of the rest of the area is occupied by vacant lots and parking areas.
A 62-year-old man who was walking nearby told police: "Something fell after the aircraft passed."
The South Kanto Defense Bureau confirmed that one of the parts dented the moving car’s roof.
Hideaki Saito, the 71-year-old secretary-general of a group of plaintiffs seeking compensation for the roar from Atsugi’s jets, rushed to the scene. He said he saw parts scattered along the prefectural road, and that some were only 10 meters from the Sagami Railway tracks.
"It was a blessing that nobody was injured," Saito said. "If a piece had fallen on the track, it could have caused a great calamity."
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