Reporting Mike Hellgren
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (WJZ) — The deaths of two divers at Aberdeen Proving Ground sent shockwaves through the military. Now the Navy is charging four sailors with crimes relating to the tragedy.
Mike Hellgren has details of the court-martials.
Federal investigators found big problems with this dive, including malfunctioning equipment and a breakdown in command. Now, members of an exclusive diving unit will face some serious charges as the government seeks justice.
The massive super pond at Aberdeen Proving Ground is where two young divers lost their lives this year. James Reyher and Ryan Harris plunged into the murky water for a training exercise, going from a boat at the surface to a helicopter 150 feet below. But according to published reports, both men quickly stopped responding.
A federal investigation uncovered serious safety infractions, including a lack of supervision. Now four sailors involved in the dive are facing court-martial. They will be arraigned this week. That will happen in Norfolk, Va., where their names and specific charges against them will be revealed.
Dave Wilkins, who lives in Aberdeen, is one of many concerned and following the outcome.
“They’re supposed to know what they’re doing. Supervisors should know what the risks are and how to avoid those sort of things,” he said.
WJZ has reported extensively on the troubles surrounding this dive, including multiple violations the Occupational Health and Safety Administration found and chilling testimony from those who were there that day.
At a military hearing, the dive supervisor said, “Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong for us.”
“In a controlled environment as such, accidents of that nature shouldn’t happen,” Wilkins said.
Federal investigators found the dive should not have happened, with inadequate training and seven violations serious enough to cause death. The fate of those in charge that tragic day will soon be up to a military court.
The arraignments are Wednesday and Thursday. They should only last a few minutes. A fifth sailor involved has accepted an administrative punishment and because of that, will not go through a court-martial.
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