Tragic Dive At Aberdeen Proving Ground Did Not Have Approval Of Commander

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(Credit: Aberdeen Proving Ground)

(Credit: Aberdeen Proving Ground)

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (WJZ) — New questions over whether those in control of the tragic dive at Aberdeen’s Super Pond failed to follow proper safety procedures.

Two officers could face involuntary manslaughter and dereliction of duty charges.

Mike Hellgren has new insight into the breakdown that may have cost these men their lives.

Testimony at a hearing Thursday revealed the dive did not have the approval of the commander, which is required because it was so deep. It also appears no one really questioned those in charge.

According to published reports, despite the supervisor of the dive into the Aberdeen Super Pond recommending James Reyher and Ryan Harris use air supply lines from the surface because of the depth, the officers in charge decided to use scuba equipment that experts say does not offer the same protections.

The training mission was simple enough–the Navy divers left a boat on the surface and were supposed to dive to a helicopter on the bottom of the pond and back. That’s a depth of 150 feet.

But any dive lower than 130 feet requires the approval of the commanding officer. That did not happen.

Brad Long with Specialty Underwater Service supervises commercial dive teams that work deep in many Maryland waterways. While he hasn’t reviewed findings in this case, he did explain to WJZ why he doesn’t use scuba equipment on the job.

“With scuba, you have a limited air supply. With surface supply diving with a compressor, we’re pretty much unlimited. We do not dive with scuba. It’s company policy,” Long said.

Reyher and Harris were connected to the boat with one line, and to each other with another line.

They’d been in the water about three and a half minutes when people on the surface tugged down to them. They didn’t respond at first, then tugged back and started to ascend. After about 20 seconds, they tugged back again, signaling something may be wrong. A short time later, the lines went heavy.

Now, it’s up to a commander to decide whether officers in this elite unit were negligent in allowing this dive to happen at all.

Another problem–the water was below the temperature recommended for safe operation of the equipment, causing it to ice up for a diver sent in to rescue them.

Reyher and Harris only had 11 minutes worth of air. They were not pulled up for 24 minutes.

The new revelations are coming from an Article 32 hearing. That’s similar to a civilian grand jury.

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