29 Apr 2013

Army charged over soldier's death

8:30 am on 29 April 2013

The Army has been charged over the death of a soldier during a training exercise last year.

Private Michael Ross fell from an inflatable boat into Lake Moawhango near Waiouru in September and drowned. Navy divers found his body a week later.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says the Army is being charged under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

The charge is failing to take all practicable steps to ensure an employee's safety at work.

A hearing is due to take place at Taihape District Court next month.

The Army has confirmed the court date but says it won't say any more as it may prejudice the maintenance of the law.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has already said a briefing has shown the death was entirely preventable and some hard lessons will have to be learned.

The Labour Party said the fatality was completely avoidable, and is the fifth non-combat death of Defence Force personnel in the past two years.

The former Chief of Army, Major General Gardiner, says the Defence Force puts a huge amount of effort into having good Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) but there is a problem if people become over-familiar with the rules.