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4 Navy Sailors Charged In Drowning Deaths At Aberdeen Proving Ground

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NORFOLK, Va. (WJZ) — Four elite Navy divers appear in military court–officially charged in the deaths of two men at Aberdeen’s Super Pond. Military prosecutors say they were responsible for ordering the deadly training exercise.

Kai Jackson has more on the charges and the consequences they could bring.

Those sailors who’ve been charged face months of confinement and a reduction in pay.

Navy divers James Rehyer and Ryan Harris drowned on Feb. 26 this year after a training exercise went wrong at the massive Super Pond at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.

In Norfolk, Va. on Wednesday, four Navy sailors were charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the tragic accident.

“Supervisors should know what the risks are and how to avoid those sort of things,” said Dave Wilkins, Aberdeen.

Senior Chief Navy Diver James Burger, Senior Chief Navy Diver David Jones, Chief Navy Diver Gary Ladd Jr. and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Bennett are all charged with a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 92.

“The problem in any death is being able to establish what’s called causal connection. ‘Did my act cause your death?'” said Byron Warnken, WarnkenLaw.com.

Rehyer and Harris, both experienced Navy divers, went from a boat on the surface of the pond to a helicopter 150 feet below. Reports state the men suddenly stopped responding and died.

An investigation uncovered serious safety infractions, including a lack of supervision.

Defense lawyer Bryon Warnken says a military tribunal operates differently than civilian court.

“Civilian court, the rules of evidence are a little more flexible. It’s much more structured in the military court,” he said.

James Rehyer was 28. Ryan Harris was 23. All four men charged will be tried separately in January.

In a separate incident in January, 41-year-old George Lazzaro Jr., a former Marine, died while doing maintenance work at the Super Pond.

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