According to an accident report release last Tuesday by the Air Force’s Ground Accident Investigation Board, a boat accident that killed an Eglin airman last fall during a training exercise in Pensacola Bay was partially caused by a lack of communication between crews and leaders.
Last October, Maj.Garrett Knowlan was killed after being hit by a boat participating in a training exercise with the 96th Test Wing. The 32-year-old flight test engineer had recently relocated to Eglin from Hurlburt Field and was in the process of transitioning to fly F015s and F-16s, for which he was required to take a training course. Such jets frequently fly over water.
According to sources, the Air Force had contracted with Naval Air Station Pensacola for the training, and crews from Metson Marine Services had been hired to operate six boats for the exercise on October 11. Students were to be dropped from a parasail into the bay and inflate a one-man life raft. Knowlan was the first student to begin the exercise.
Although those leading the exercise had decided that they were going to permit Knowlan to a portion of the exercise involving a lifeboat, they did not communicate to everyone involved exactly how it was going to be coordinated, including where and when Knowlan would be put in the water. Neither did they use a radio to make it clear to all boats involved after the student had been put in the water.
The long and short of it is that Knowland was unknowingly struck by a boat during the exercise due to lack of communication. He died instantly.
It isn’t clear whether any legal action will be taken as a result of the death, nor whether any changes have been or will be implemented in the training process in response to the accident.
Source: Northwest Florida Daily News, “Report: Lack of communications contributed to Eglin airman’s death,” Lauren Sage Reinlie, March 19, 2013