Investigation Launched Over Repeated Military Vehicle Rollover Deaths

Following at least 15 deaths involving military vehicles that rolled over during training exercises last year, government officials will investigate potential problems with light armored vehicles (LAVs).

The investigation was launched by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), after the parents of one military service member killed during one of the training exercises lobbied members of Congress to further review the continuing occurrences at Army and Marine training bases, according to a report published by

The family of First Lt. Hugh Connor McDowell lobbied lawmakers to investigate his death in May 2019, which occurred during a training exercise in California, when the 12-ton eight-wheeled LAV rolled over and fell into an 18-foot ravine, pinning and killing McDowell as it flipped.

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Details of the incident indicate that McDowell was positioned in the vehicle’s turret to help guide his driver as they maneuvered the armored vehicle into six-foot-tall grass. The tactic is taught by the Army and Marines to camouflage the vehicle and mitigate exposure to improvised explosive devices, which are more frequently seen along roadways in combat areas.

McDowell’s father told news sources that there were no signs on the training range to alert them of the ravine drop off, and the maps they used to prepare for the exercise did not reference the potential danger.

Just months before the incident that resulted in McDowell’s death, a similar military vehicle rollover occurred during an exercise. According to the family, McDowell indicated in his diary that it was a miracle no one was killed in that incident.

Similar fatalities have been reported across U.S. military bases, including the death of Army Spc. Nicholas Panipinto. who died from injuries sustained after his Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled on flat ground in South Korea in November 2019. The incident was reported just two weeks after Marine Pfc. Christian Bautista was killed in a vehicle training exercise in Bridgeport, California.

In addition to at least 15 Marines and soldiers killed in vehicle training accidents in 2019, reports suggest that over the last five years more than three times as many service members died in training-related incidents than in combat.

GAO’s Director of Defense Capabilities and Management Team, Cary Russell, said the agency is performing a military-wide review on vehicle safety and analysis, how accident data is collected and reviewed, and how training ranges are inspected for safety, among other topics.

The investigation, which was launched in October 2019, has not released any details specifically to the light-weight military vehicles that were being used during these training exercise deaths. However, the agency says it plans to fully investigate the events leading up to the reported deaths.


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