Marines receive awards for emergency response to fatal accident on Okinawa highway
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Kojin Chibana, chief of the Okinawa Police Station, presented letters of appreciation Feb. 26 to six Marines who assisted emergency personnel during a fatal accident on Highway 330 in Okinawa City.
The chief presented the awards to the Marines for their immediate response to the Jan. 13 wreck that occurred near Zukeran Elementary School in Kitanakagusuku Village.
The recipients were Lance Cpls. Nathan R. Campbell, Dustin T. Kirk and Nicholas M. Stetson, all three are military policemen; Lance Cpls. Steven T. Danisi, an accident investigator who reported the accident; and Rafael Rangel-Sanchez, a military working dog handler. Also recognized was Staff Sgt. Michael S. Rice, a military policeman and patrol supervisor. The Marines are assigned to the Provost Marshal’s Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
“When the accident happened (near) Zukeran, the Marines preserved the accident scene, rescued victims, and controlled the traffic,” said Moriyoshi Teruya, an assistant police inspector with the traffic investigation section, Okinawa Police Station. “Danisi happened to be driving behind the (flatbed semitrailer) and saw the accident. He pulled over and immediately worked on rescuing victims, and sent a radio notification to his office. The five Marines came to the scene, and together they responded to the accident (until) the Japanese police arrived.”
Once the Marines were on site, they were able to assist many of the victims while waiting for Okinawa police officers, according to Danisi.
“The Camp Foster military police arrived and helped get people out,” said Danisi. “(MCIPAC and MCB Camp Butler Fire and Emergency Services personnel) showed up on scene to get the people that were trapped in the vehicles out. The local police arrived minutes later. We all tried our best to help them out and get the individuals out of the cars, so they could get the proper medical attention they needed. We did all we could.”
The three departments had not trained together before, but this did not impede anyone from aiding those involved. The accident occurred when a flatbed semitrailer unhitched, colliding into two passenger vehicles. The incident resulted in the injury of two Japanese motorists and the deaths of three.
“I guess if you were outside looking in, it was really impressive to see everyone – people who have never spoken to each other, don’t even speak the same language, and have never trained together – working efficiently side by side,” said Rice. “That’s the purpose of our job. It doesn’t matter who you are, I have a job to do and that’s what I’m going to do. That’s the way the local police department looks at it too.”