Concerns raised after Army helicopter drops equipment onto school campus

HONOLULU (KHON2) - Parents and residents are outraged after a military helicopter crew dropped a 90-pound package onto a school campus Thursday.

An Army spokesman says the 25th Infantry Division was holding training exercises when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter dropped an equipment bundle by parachute that was supposed to land at a drop zone at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows.

Instead, it landed more than 200 yards away at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School.

The school's principal said it landed on the fence line between the B building on the elementary side of campus and the homes in Waimanalo Village.

No one was hurt and there was no damage to property.

The Army says the bundle drop was part of training that's designed to teach soldiers to deliver equipment by parachute from helicopters.

"We've been doing it there for quite some time. This is the first time we have any record of something like this happening," Lt. Col. Curtis Kellogg of the 25th Infantry Division told KHON2 Friday.

Kellogg says the bundle weighed about 90 pounds and contained MREs (meals ready to eat) and other non-hazardous materials. 

He provided a photo, taken by a soldier prior to the drop: "The green package with the yellow strap on top is the parachute, and it is connected to an aviator’s kit bag which contained the Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and other items. The kit bag’s dimensions are 22 in. x 20 in. x 12 in."

School officials say it happened at around 12:15 p.m. It was still recess, so a lot of students were out.

Witnesses tell us that children ran toward the bundle when it landed. Some of them were even jumping on top of it.  

"Something could have been in that bag that could have caused something bigger than what happened yesterday," said Jovin Aina-Chaves, whose nephew is a student. "It could have been a weapon or something that could actually harm anybody, or it could have fallen on anybody too, so that's pretty concerning."

"It's been windy for the past week here. I don't know why the Army would think that it would be alright to come out and drop freight, especially uphill from somewhere where the wind is shifting down to the housing area," said Andy Jamila of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board.

The Army says at the time the drop was made, conditions were still favorable for the training.

"There's a possibility that the winds got stronger after it was dropped then?" KHON2 asked.

"It certainly is a possibility. That is one of the things that we're looking at," said Kellogg. "So we're examining this to see how meteorological conditions may have changed as well as any factors that may have contributed from that so we can learn from that."

Honolulu police turned the package in to the 25th Infantry Division.

Kellogg says no other training exercises of this type are planned any time soon. They are usually done once every year, sometimes two years.

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