FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An alert declaring all low-water crossings off-limits to vehicles was issued at Fort Hood hours before a truck carrying 12 soldiers was knocked over by floodwaters last year, killing nine, according to a military report.
The report reviewed by The Dallas Morning News indicates that on June 2, 2016, a convoy of four Army vehicles attempted to navigate a crossing overrun by more than 7 feet of floodwaters.
The military transport truck leading the convoy at the Central Texas post toppled over when it entered the water. Three aboard the truck were pulled to safety but nine others died.
Army officials have not publicly released the report but a copy was provided to Ricky DeLeon of San Angelo, whose 19-year-old son, Isaac Lee DeLeon, was among those killed. The family allowed the newspaper to review the report.
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The investigation placed much of the blame for DeLeon’s death on Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colonvazquez, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and the patrol leader in the transport convoy. He was among the nine who drowned in what ranks among the worst training disasters in the 75-year history of the Central Texas post.
Three other unit leaders who were not with the transport have also been recommended for reprimands. Their names have been redacted in the report.
However, that doesn’t satisfy DeLeon’s family. His father believes the entire Fort Hood command should bear responsibility for his child’s death.
“Our son Isaac is dead because of irresponsibility. It was a bad situation where they never should have been out there,” Ricky DeLeon told the newspaper.
The disaster happened in a raging late-morning thunderstorm. A convoy of four Army vehicles carrying 18 soldiers, many of them newly minted privates being trained on convoy operations, headed down a road toward a remote area of the post about 15 miles northeast of the main gate. According to the Army report, the vehicles turned onto an unpaved tank trail, and a 2½-ton truck carrying 12 soldiers, including Isaac, took the lead position in the convoy, switching places with a Humvee.
The Humvee’s driver would later tell investigators he had phoned Colonvazquez, the patrol’s leader, and told him he was “unsure of the route and had concerns about the weather,” according to the report. Yet the convoy rolled on through two large pools of water, including one deep enough to get the inside of the Humvee wet.
The convoy arrived at the low-water crossing of flood-swollen Owl Creek, where waters were later determined to be more than seven feet deep at the crossing, the report said. The truck with the 12 soldiers entered the creek first and was immediately toppled by the rushing water and swept downstream.
At the time, Fort Hood officials said the patrol was in the “proper place for what they were training.” However, the National Weather Service had issued a flash flood warning more than an hour before the convoy left the motor pool. And Fort Hood had issued its own alert six hours before the convoy got underway, declaring all low-water crossings and creek-crossings off limits to all vehicles, according to the report DeLeon was given. The Fort Hood alert was emailed to the 1st Cavalry Division level, but it apparently wasn’t forwarded down to the battalion level, the report said.
The Fort Hood public affairs office would not respond to questions because the official version of the report has not been publicly released yet.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com