The military is to temporarily halt landing drills involving inflatable raiding craft pending safety reassessments, following a fatal incident on Friday last week, a navy official said.
The announcement came after the incident in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District (左營), which left two marines dead.
The landing drill was part of preparations 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 maneuvers under the annual Han Kuang military exercises, to be held from tomorrow to Friday, would proceed as planned, said Vice Admiral Sun Chang-teh (孫常德), the navy’s political warfare chief.
In last week’s incident, two of the eight raiding craft overturned about 160m offshore at 8:48am, due to an unexpected wave surge, which threw 14 marines into rough seas, Sun said.
Eleven of the marines swam to shore, while two others were rescued about 20 minutes later and the body of another was recovered at 11:30am, Sun said, citing the initial findings of an investigation into the incident.
Sun discounted factors such as human error and equipment malfunction as possible causes of the incident, saying that all participants in the drill hold certificates of qualification and four preparatory training sessions had been conducted in the vicinity.
All raiding craft and their engines had also been inspected and found to be functioning normally, he added.
The two soldiers who died and the one in critical condition were asphyxiated from inhaling water into their lungs, lowering their capacity to supply oxygen to their organs and causing brain damage, Sun said.
Sun did not confirm whether the soldiers were found face down or face up, nor was he able to explain why they had drowned despite wearing inflatable life jackets.
He said that further investigation was needed.
Regarding the suspected suicide of one of the supervisors overseeing the drill, a lieutenant commander surnamed Yang (楊), Sun said that the local prosecutors’ office was investigating the matter and would report its findings to Yang’s family.
Yang early on Sunday last week was found dead in his room at Kaohsiung’s Zuoying Naval Base in an apparent suicide, hours after one of the soldiers injured in the drill had died in a hospital.
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