Fatal Army Aviation Accidents Down, But Off-Duty Deaths Cause Concern
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A command sergeant major back home from a deployment took his motorcycle out for a joyride. He hit a culvert near Fort Bragg, N.C., at 140 mph and is now paralyzed from the neck down.
He was fortunate to survive, said Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, commander of the Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center.
Preventable accidents are the silent killers of Army soldiers, Wolf said. While fatalities from aviation mishaps are down, off-duty accidents increasingly are taking the lives of soldiers, he said April 19 at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual professional forum.
When taking into account combat fatalities, as well as those from suicide, medical and criminal activities, a soldier dies every 11 hours, Wolf said. About every two-and-a-half days, a soldier dies as the result of an accident.
Many of these mishaps occur off duty and with personal weapons or vehicles. So far this year, five soldiers have been killed messing around with weapons and alcohol, Wolf said.
Motorcycle deaths involving soldiers also are on the rise, he said. These fatalities more often than not involve senior enlisted personnel between the ages of 31 and 45. In fiscal year 2010, more than three times as many soldiers (128) died in off-duty vehicle accidents than in on-duty ones, according to Army statistics. Accident investigations often find that the deceased were speeding or not wearing safety belts, Wolf said.
In theater, the most dangerous thing a soldier does outside of armed combat is ride in tactical vehicles, he added. In the hands of untrained crews, “they are dangerous pieces of equipment.” Armored trucks weigh about 44,000 pounds. “That’s a piece of steel ready to roll or tip over putting everyone in that vehicle at risk.”
Short of death, soldiers in theater are most likely to be injured playing sports such as flag football and soccer, Wolfe said.