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101 Critical Days of Summer over, but not danger

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 101 Critical Days of Summer are now over, but the danger isn't, according to base safety officials. 

There were 19 deaths Air Force wide during this year's annual safety campaign that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That is up from 17 last year. Most of the fatalities were the result of private motor vehicle accidents (eight), and motorcycle accidents (seven). 

At Kadena there were 10 reportable safety mishaps during the campaign, down one from the previous two years, and no fatalities. 

"During the 101 days that's when we lose the most people," said Tech. Sgt. Jose Parra, 18th Wing ground safety superintendent. "The fact that we have zero fatalities on Kadena with the amount of people we have here is outstanding." 

A reportable mishap is an incident that causes someone to miss more than one day of work. Most of the local mishaps were sports injuries, however there were two serious accidents, both alcohol related. 

In one incident an Airman driving a privately-owned vehicle drifted into oncoming traffic hitting a vehicle head on. According to Tech. Sgt. Mark Hazelbaker, wing ground safety NCOIC, the Airman's blood alcohol content was so high she could've died from alcohol poisoning. 

In another incident, an officer who had been drinking was driving his motorcycle when he hit a curb and lost control. Both the member and a passenger were ejected from the bike and sustained several injuries. 

"There were a lot of Air Force motorcycle fatalities this year," said Sergeant Hazelbaker. "There are also a lot of motorcycle riders on this base. In the States hardly anyone rides motorcycles come October or November. People ride them here all year round. We had a motorcycle fatality here last November." 

To stress the on-going concern for motorcycle safety, a motorcycle safety awareness rodeo will be held at Kadena Sept. 21. For details call 634-6903. 

Since most of the mishaps on base were sports and recreation injuries, outdoor activities continue to be a big safety concern here. 

"Here we don't have 101 Critical Days of Summer, we have more like 201 because the weather permits summer activities most of the year," said Sergeant Parra. "The campaign is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but honestly for Kadena our critical days are not over. There really is not a lot of difference between what people were doing a month ago and what they are going to be doing a month from now. People are going swimming and snorkeling, and scuba diving. All that stuff is risky. We're wrapping up that time period, but for us it is business as usual. Don't let your guard down."
The 18th Wing will hold a safety down day Sept. 28. 

"It's not a family day. It's not a day to take off. It should be a day to put safety on everyone's mind," said Sergeant Hazelbaker. "Commanders will tell their people what we've been saying, 'You've done a good job on safety, but don't let down your guard.'"