26 Nov 2013

Defence asks police to investigate death

8:33 pm on 26 November 2013

The family of a soldier who drowned during a training exercise say they are dismayed that one of his fellow soldiers could be prosecuted over the death.

Private Michael Ross.

Private Michael Ross. Photo: DEFENCE FORCE

The Defence Force has asked police to investigate the death of Private Michael Ross, who fell from an inflatable boat into Lake Moawhango, near Waiouru, in September last year.

An inquiry by the Defence Force released earlier this year found that multiple failings led to his death, including an inadequate lifejacket and an under-inflated boat.

The Defence Force said it has now referred allegations to police, though it would not say what charges police have been asked to consider. Police said they are reviewing material, but would not comment further.

A spokesperson for the Ross family, Charles Hohaia, said on Tuesday the investigation relates to one person who could face very serious charges, and the family thinks this is unfair.

Mr Hohaia said Private Ross' death was caused by systemic mistakes and it would be a "travesty" if one person took the blame.

The Defence Force has been prosecuted under health and safety legislation. A court found in July this year that it failed to take all practical steps to ensure Private Ross' safety.