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2 newspapers clash over conflicting reports on traffic accident involving US Marine

The Sankei Shimbun newspaper and the Okinawa local Ryukyu Shimpo daily have clashed over how the two newspapers reported a traffic accident in December last year that left a U.S. Marine master sergeant in a coma.

The national daily has reported that the sergeant was hit by an oncoming vehicle after he rescued a Japanese civilian and criticized local newspapers for not covering the "heroic action," while the local daily has claimed that the U.S. Marine Corps has denied the sergeant helped the civilian.

According to Okinawa Prefectural Police and other sources, the accident occurred at around 4:50 a.m. on Dec. 1 on the Okinawa Expressway in the city of Okinawa. The sergeant got out of his car after accidentally coming into contact with the vehicle in front of him, after which he was hit by a following vehicle operated by another Marine member.

The Sankei Shimbun published a story about the accident on Dec. 9 on its website, saying that the sergeant rescued a Japanese citizen from the crashed car and slamming the two Okinawa local dailies -- the Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times -- for only covering the accident but not the rescue action. The Sankei said the two local newspapers "bring shame to the Japanese people." The national daily also carried the story in its Dec. 12 paper edition, saying that the two dailies continued to ignore the incident.

The Ryukyu Shimpo, on the other hand, reported on Jan. 30 that the Marine Corps told the newspaper that while the sergeant checked if the driver of the other vehicle was OK, he did not rescue the driver. The local daily also quoted prefectural police as saying that it has not confirmed any rescue action carried out by the sergeant.

Asked about the conflicting reports, a Sankei Shimbun public relations official told the Mainichi Shimbun that the newspaper is continuing to cover the story and will publish an article "if we deem it necessary." Meanwhile, Ryukyu Shimpo assistant managing editor Katsutoshi Matsunaga said, "We published the article to point out that (the Sankei) criticized the Okinawan media based on information that lacked fact checking."

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