Taiwan suspends raiding craft landing drill after fatal accident

07/06/2020 09:54 PM
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Taipei, July 6 (CNA) Taiwan's military will temporarily halt landing drills involving inflatable raiding crafts pending safety reassessments, following a fatal accident on July 3, a Navy official said on Monday.

The announcement came after the accident in waters off Taoziyuan beach in Kaohsiung City which left two Marine soldiers dead and one in critical condition as of Monday evening.

The landing drill was part of the preparation for the annual Han Kuang military exercises, which test the capabilities of Taiwan's armed forces in repelling a potential invasion by China.

However, joint landing drills involving other subjects under the annual Han Kuang military exercises, slated for July 13-17, will proceed as planned, said Vice Admiral Sun Chang-teh (孫常德), the navy's political warfare chief, speaking at a news conference.

According to Sun, in the recent accident, two of the eight raiding crafts overturned about 160 meters offshore at 8:48 a.m. Friday due to an unexpected surge of waves, which threw 14 marine soldiers into rough seas.

Eleven of them were able to swim to the shore, two others were rescued about 20 minutes later, and the last one was recovered at 11:30 a.m., Sun said, citing initial findings of an investigation into the accident.

Sun discounted factors such as human error and equipment malfunction as possible causes of the accident, saying all participants in the drill hold certificates of qualification and four preparatory training sessions had been conducted in the same vicinity.

All raiding crafts and their engines had also been inspected and found to be functioning normally, he added.

According to Sun, the two soldiers who died and the one in critical condition were asphyxiated due to the inhalation of water into the lungs, lowering the capacity of their lungs to supply oxygen to their body organs, which led to brain damage.

Sun, however, did not confirm whether the three soldiers were found face down or face up, nor was he able to explain why they drowned despite wearing inflatable life jackets.

Sun said further investigation was needed.

Meanwhile, on the suspected suicide of one of the supervisors overseeing the drill, a lieutenant commander surnamed Yang, Sun said the local prosecutor's office will report its findings to Yang's family as the case is being investigated by prosecutors.

Yang was found dead on a staircase next to his room at the Kaohsiung Zuoying naval base in an apparent suicide early Sunday, hours after one of the soldiers injured in the drill had died in hospital.

(By Matt Yu and Emerson Lim)

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