Fort Hood Redacts Report on Fatal 2016 Training Accident
The U.S. Army has redacted large portions of a report on a training accident that resulted in the death of nine soldiers on Fort Hood in 2016.
On June 2 of that year, an Army troop truck was swept away in flash flood conditions at a low water crossing at Owl Creek on Fort Hood, resulting in the deaths of:
- Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colon-Vazquez
- Spc. Christine Faith Armstrong
- Pfc. Brandon Austin Banner
- Pfc. Zachery Nathaniel Fuller
- Pvt. Isaac Lee Deleon
- Pvt. Eddy Raelaurin Gates
- Pvt. Tysheena Lynette James
- Cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey
- Spc. Yingming Sun
The Associated Press reports that the Killeen Daily Herald obtained an official report from the Army after an open records request and discovered that officials had redacted 14 pages. The edits reportedly make it impossible to determine who may have been at fault.
The Herald received a letter from the Army stating the redactions were made in order to protect the deliberations of safety board members.
In an article published in May of 2017, the Army Times cited a 423-page report obtained after a Freedom of Information Act request. The report stated that decisions from vehicle commander Staff Sgt. Michael Colon-Vasquez made despite weather warnings and road closures announced by Fort Hood officials, as well as a general breakdown in safety communications and procedures, were to blame for the accident and lives lost.
Colon-Vasquez's widow, Ngo Pham, told the Dallas Morning News that people familiar with her husband and what happened that day said the commander knew conditions were poor and suggested to his superiors that other forms of training should be done that day. Pham said the suggestion was ignored, and her husband was following protocol when he continued with the creek crossing.
According to the Army Times, the investigators responsible for the 423-page report made several recommendations to ensure all safety communications make into the right hands and that receipt confirmation be sent up the chain. Other recommendations included implementing a tactical marking system for flood warnings, as well as more extensive driving training featuring courses covering local hazards.
A spokesman with the III Corps told the Army Times the recommendations had been implemented as of a year after the 2016 incident.
12 soldiers were aboard the truck when it overturned in the waters that day. The Austin American-Statesman reported that the truck was designed to withstand 30 inches of moving water, but that flood waters at Owl Creek was nearly three times that level when the truck drove into them. The Statesman article also cited inadequate training and safety procedures.