Buchanan Presses Army After Soldier's Death

Todays News


It’s been two and half years since Bradenton soldier Nicholas Panipinto died in a training accident in South Korea. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, let Army brass know in a hearing this week that a similar tragedy can never be allowed to happen again.

The congressman was part of a hearing entitled “Learning From and Preventing Future Training Mishaps,” held Tuesday by the House Armed Services Committee, where he directed a series of questions to Gen. Joseph Martin, vice chief of staff for the Army.

“We’ve got the best military on the planet but we can always do better,” Buchanan said. He noted that in 2017, the military lost more soldiers to training accidents than to combat. That’s unacceptable, he said. Regarding Panipinto’s death in particular, he said there was much reason for alarm.

Panipinto died in a vehicle rollover, flipping an M2A3 fighting vehicle he wasn’t certified to drive, at Camp Humphreys. The base itself didn’t have a fully stocked ambulance or a MedEvac helicopter. The Army specialist had to be transported two hours after the crash by local ambulance to a civilian hospital, where he died from his injuries later the same day.

Buchanan’s office has worked with Kimberly Weaver, Panipinto’s mother, on reforms since then. Last year, he got a proposal passed into law requiring an inventory on medical readiness at U.S. bases around the globe.

Martin, for his part, told Buchanan the Army is in that process now, and will strive to ensure all bases have the right medical infrastructure in place. He also acknowledged a number of failures that led the Panipinto’s death and said officers were held responsible. Military.com last year reported three of Panipinto’s superiors were drummed out of the Army over the incident.

“We took appropriate action against the individuals who failed the soldier that day,” Martin said.

Training for vehicles has been made more rigorous since the accident, but Martin said the truth is standards in place at the time were not followed.

Buchanan remains alarmed by some of the oversights and asked for assurances mistakes will not be repeated. “Steps need to be taken so parents don’t have to go through this again,” he said.

Weaver, for her part, released a statement through Buchanan’s office hopeful reforms will make a difference. "It's heartening to see the Armed Services Committee respond to Vern's request for a public hearing," she said. "I hope the congressman's proposals for reform ultimately are approved so that no parent ever has to go through what we did." 


Photo of Spc. Nicholas Panipinto and family.

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