Goff wants 'no holds barred' investigation

Last updated 14:59 17/03/2013
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Private Michael Victor Ross

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The Defence Minister should look closely at whether three recent incidents resulting in the "preventable "deaths of defence force personnel had parallel factors.

Labour's Defence spokesperson Phil Goff said today's Fairfax Media revelations about the drowning of an army private during a training exercise raised many questions about a potential culture in the defence force of taking "short cuts".

Private Michael Ross, 29, drowned during a training exercise on a lake near Waiouru in September while wearing a faulty lifejacket and couldn't be saved because of problems with two army boats that tried to rescue him, the investigation found.

It also revealed that Ross should have been able to inflate his lifejacket after he fell overboard from a boat on Lake Moawhango, but it was later discovered the jacket's gas canister, triggered by pulling a cord, was empty.

Ross, weighed down by equipment - including a 20kg machinegun attached to his body - screamed to his colleagues that he couldn't inflate the lifejacket, but problems with the boat meant they couldn't get to him in time.

Goff said he wanted a "no holds barred" investigation into the incident which should be viewed in light of a leaked report into the 2010 crash of an Iroquois helicopter in Manawatu. That report cited training problems with instrument flying and night vision goggles and found there were no instructor manuals or guides because of resourcing issues.

Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, 33, Flying Officer Dan Gregory, 28, and Corporal Ben Carson, 25, were killed.

The revelations also come two weeks after it was revealed the family of Corporal Douglas Hughes had concerns about his suicide in Afghanistan.

Goff said Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman should keep an open mind into whether standing orders were regularly being ignored and if on all occasions a culture in the defence force had contributed to unneeded deaths.

"You are left with a feeling on three occasions events have happened that were preventable."

It is understood the Defence Force was drafting a response to the investigation into Private Ross's death.

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