Lawmaker calls for reform after most-recent military vehicle rollover death

Elizabeth Howe
June 11, 2020 - 12:57 pm
M2A3 Bradley

DVIDS

A Republican lawmaker from Florida sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on behalf of the mother of Spc. Nicholas Panipinto, a soldier killed in a vehicle rollover at Camp Humphreys in South Korea last November. 

The “heartbreaking” death was “preventable,” the letter from Rep. Vern Buchanan,reads. Panipinto lacked the training to operate the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was commanded to take on a road-test. While the Army does have training requirements for soldiers to drive certain vehicles, the master driver of Panipinto’s unit reported during an Army investigation into the accident that no such training existed at Camp Humphreys. 

That Army investigation also revealed other problems at Camp Humphreys -- with the vehicles as well as with the installation itself. Malfunctioning communications systems and broken equipment in the M2A3s contributed to Panipinto’s death as did the lack of medical services available at Camp Humphreys. Panipinto had to be transported by MedEvac helicopter to the closest hospital -- he did not arrive until two hours after the accident. All these factors, Buchanan argued, were preventable. 

Panipinto’s is the most recent, but far from the only death caused by a military vehicle rollover during training operations. The family of First Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell -- who was killed in May 2019 in a vehicle rollover -- similarly lobbied for increased safety measures that would prevent rollover deaths. And a June 2019 rollover involving West Point cadets that killed Cadet Christopher Morgan resulted in legal charges against the driver. 

Panipinto, McDowell and Morgan are three of 15 service members killed in vehicle rollovers in 2019 alone, Military.com reported. In 2017, nearly four times as many service members died in training accidents than were killed in action, according to a Congressional Research Service report. 

In response to McDowell’s death, the Government Accountability Office launched an investigation encompassing both the Army’s and Marine Corps’ vehicle training deaths. The results of that investigation have not yet been released. 

In the meantime, Buchanan, on behalf of Panipinto’s mother, called on the Department of Defense for reform 

To do so, Buchanan recommended that current training requirements are upheld and augmented with simulated training experiences. He also called the DoD to ensure that all installations are equipped with adequate medical services and capabilities -- the kind which could have prevented Panipinto’s death had they not been absent. 

“The highest tribute that can be paid to the life of SPC Panipinto is that the Defense Department will make sure that future military personnel who are injured during training exercises can quickly receive high-quality medical treatment that might help save their lives,” Buchanan’s letter reads. 

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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