POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Sen. Lee calls for immediate release of jailed Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis

Sep 15, 2022, 7:00 AM
Alkonis japan Mike Lee...
Image of Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis, who is imprisoned in Japan after killing two people in a car accident. Utah Sen. Mike Lee is among those working for Alkonis' return. (US Navy via CNN)
(US Navy via CNN)

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee has called for the immediate release of Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis from Japan. Lee joined Alkonis’ friends and family at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning, just days after they demonstrated in front of the Utah Capitol for the service member’s release.

According to CNN, Alkonis was jailed in Japan after a court found him guilty of the negligent driving deaths of Japanese citizens in 2021. 

Alkonis reportedly admitted to Japanese officials that he was unconscious behind the wheel of a car as he drove from Mount Fuji. CNN reported that Alkonis hit an 85-year-old woman and her 54-year-old son-in-law and that both of them died in the crash.

But the lieutenant claims he was dealing with acute mountain sickness when the accident happened.

Lee said Alkonis was involved in an accident

At the U.S. Capitol this morning, Lee agreed that what happened was an accident.

“What happened on the day of the accident was tragic. It was unfortunate. Our thoughts, our prayers, our deepest condolences and sympathies go out to the family members of those whose lives were tragically cut short the day of the accident,” Lee said.

“But this was an accident. It was an accident brought about by a medical emergency, one that was neither foreseen nor foreseeable by Lt. Ridge Alkonis.”

Lee said the same when he appeared Wednesday on KSL NewsRadio’s Inside Sources. 

Lee said his effort to free Lt. Alkonis began with conversations with the Japanese ambassador to the United States. They evolved into a letter signed by 20 U.S. Senators and a personal visit to Japan.

He said he’s also working with the Japanese ambassador to the United States and the Japanese ambassador to the United States, Rahm Emmanuel.

Meanwhile, Alkonis’ family is asking President Biden to intervene, to hasten Alkonis’ return.

Kira Hoffelmeyer contributed to this report.

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Sen. Lee calls for immediate release of jailed Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis