Soldier drowning report due

Last updated 10:20 25/07/2013
Ross
DROWNED: Private Michael Ross.

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The Defence Force will today release the findings of its inquiry into the drowning death of a soldier in a North Island lake, with several serving personnel facing possible disciplinary charges over the incident.

Private Michael Ross, 29, drowned during a training exercise on Lake Moawhango, near Waiouru, on September 25 last year.

In March it was revealed that he had been wearing a faulty lifejacket and could not be saved because of problems with two army boats that tried to rescue him.

Chief of the army Major General Dave Gawn last week met Ross' family for a full-day restorative justice session in which he is understood to have apologised and admitted serious health and safety failures.

This afternoon's release of the Court of Inquiry findings will follow an appearance in the Auckland District Court in which the army will be sentenced after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to ensure Ross' safety. It faces a fine of up to $250,000, with part of any fine likely to go to Ross' family.

Ross drowned after a series of catastrophic safety failures, including a faulty lifejacket. He had fallen out of an inflatable boat with about 20kg of equipment, including a machine gun.

It is understood four or five serving personnel will face internal disciplinary charges over the death. A Defence Force spokesperson said last week a military police inquiry to determine whether any charges would be laid was still under way.

It is believed the Court of Inquiry report into the death includes up to 16 pages of recommendations, including lifejacket management.

A moratorium on small-boat manoeuvres is in place until the improvements have been made.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has admitted inquiries into the death had found it was ''entirely preventable'' and the Defence Force should prepare for some ''painful lessons'' on how it handled the safety of personnel.

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