The following is an editorial from the USASOC Safety Office.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. ˗ Last year emerged as one of our worst for on and off-duty fatalities. As we look forward to 2018, it is helpful to review a few of the fatal accidents that stood out from the rest.
All fatal accidents are tragic. However, it is these particular accidents that make you shake your head in disbelief and mutter to yourself, 'What were they thinking?'
Off-Duty POV Accident 1: According to witness statements and the investigating officer's report, the Soldier was reportedly hanging out of the rear side passenger truck window as the vehicle drove down the interstate, until he pushed the thrill envelope just a little too far and fell out of the vehicle. He was then struck and killed by another vehicle.
Off-Duty POV Accident 2: The fatally-injured Soldier was a passenger in a vehicle driven by another Soldier. After a night of bar-hopping, the driver was observed driving his Dodge Challenger at a high rate of speed when he went off the road on a curve, and impacted a fence and a tree. The car then flipped and landed on its roof in the roadway. The passenger was declared dead at the scene. The driver was charged with DWI, but faces additional charges and a very uncertain future.
Off-Duty Motorcycle Fatality: After a full day at work and an evening of riding with friends to local venues, our fatally-injured Soldier decided to ride back into town to visit a friend. Unfortunately, a combination of speed, fatigue and a blood-alcohol content twice the legal limit, led to the Soldier missing a sharp, but well-marked curve, sliding off the road, then tumbling through a field for more than 150 feet before coming to rest in a ditch. To compound this tragedy, the Soldier was his unit's designated motorcycle mentor.
On-Duty Fatality: Skid-Steer Loader Operator: The Soldier was tasked with moving some materials with a 'Bobcat' skid-steer loader. Unfortunately, he was not trained or licensed on the equipment and was left unsupervised while he was working. The Soldier was later found leaning outside of the loader's cab, crushed by the skid loader's lowered bucket arm.
In each of these fatalities, the Soldier made poor risk decisions that contributed to their demise. However, there were in most cases a friend, a fellow Soldier, or a supervisor involved that failed to intercede and break the chain of events that eventually led to the fatality. Each person, be it Soldier or civilian, is responsible for their own safety as well as the safety of their fellow team members. After the accident, it's too late to think, 'I should have done something.'
Personal safety is a full-time risk mitigation exercise. It is not something that you can switch on or off at your convenience.