21 soldiers, airmen killed in training, exercises since 2005

2405

Twenty one South African soldiers and airmen have been killed in training or exercises since 2005.

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu says in answer to a Parliamentary question by Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald that seven died in training accident and 14 during exercises.

In addition, three soldier died while deployed abroad on peacekeeping missions, one each in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

 

Year

Service

Number

Training

Exercise

Reason for death

Finding of BOI

Reason for death

Finding of BOI

2005

SAAF

1

Flying accident

Controlled flight, flying into fixed terrain. (Pilot error)

2006

Army

1

Machine gun accident

Negligence

2007

Army

11

 

 

2 x members – SAMIL accident

—————

9 x members – 35mm Anti aircraft gun accident

In process

 

 

—————

Due to the sensitivity of the incident, C Army will personally brief the MOD&MV on the findings if required

2008

Army

1

Motor vehicle accident

In process

 

 

2009

Army

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAAF

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

1 x member shooting accident

—————

1 x member shooting accident

In process

 

 

—————

In process

 

 

1 x member drowned

 

 

 

 

 

-Flying accident

In process

 

 

 

 

 

 

Controlled flight, flying into fixed terrain. (Pilot error)

2010

Army

1

Member run over in unit lines

In process

 

Groenewald says Sisulu should make the report of the Board of Inquiry into the 35mm cannon accident in October 2007 known immediately. Nine trainees were killed and 14 more were injured. “Her predecessor, Mosiuoa Lekota at the time gave an undertaking in Parliament that the investigation into the Lohatlha shooting would be transparent and that nothing would be hidden away. The release of the report is necessary to ensure that Parliament fulfils its oversight role. The public is also entitled to know what went wrong and which preventative measures have been taken to ensure that a similar incident does not happen again,” he says.
“There are many unanswered questions as to what had gone wrong and whether there had been any negligence and who was responsible for it,” Groenewald says.

The Star newspaper reported in March 2008 that a Board of Inquiry into the incident found that a design flaw, and not human error, was to blame for the tragedy. Major-General Johan Jooste (Retired), who led the inquiry, that month presented a summary of his findings to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence. He told MPs a “critical mechanical failure” of a matchstick-sized metal pin caused the accident.

Jooste explained that the pin caused the gearbox of the rotating (upper) section of the gun not to engage properly, leaving the 4-ton upper section swinging uncontrollably under its own weight. The problem was further aggravated by a stoppage – a physical ammunition jam – in one of the barrels which caused the force of the other barrel’s “rather long burst” to rotate the gun violently to the left. The gun then fired at the crews of seven other systems nearby, the paper said.

An inspection carried out after the incident found that 10 of the Army’s 48 GDF systems had broken spring pins, “accidents apparently waiting to happen”. The pins were sent to two separate groups of engineers for metallurgic testing but no metal fatigue or other structural problems were found, leading the inquiry to conclude that a design flaw was to blame.

The inquiry confirmed an earlier accusation by Lekota – that the original equipment manufacturer did not notify client countries, including SA, of a previous, identical mechanical failure in another country. The manufacturer “had also not communicated any corrective maintenance tasks to prevent the pin failure from occurring or to correct the failure once it has occurred”.

Jooste said there was some dispute between the SANDF and the manufacturer about whether the shearing of the pins constituted a “critical equipment failure”. The manufacturer argued that the operator of the gun should be able to notice such a failure before it posed a threat, Jooste explained.



Groenewald adds another worry is that in eight of the deaths since 2007, the Board of Inquiry into the incidents have not been finalised. “This includes three parachute soldiers. If the investigation into the cause has not been finalised, the same mistake can be repeated and more soldiers could die during training. The minister will also have to answer as to why these investigations have not been finalised,” Groenewald said.