Two passengers on naval joyride may dieTwo people injured during a prohibited joyride on a military boat Saturday are at risk of dying, military sources said yesterday.
The news highlights a lack of discipline within the military that has been demonstrated in a rash of recent tragedies, including the Cheonan sinking in March and the crash of an F-5 jet fighter last month.
On Saturday evening, a rigid-inflatable boat (RIB) designed to be used for special naval missions capsized at sea near Taean, South Chungcheong. Among the 15 people on the boat were retired or inactive soldiers, who were having a high school reunion with their families.
“Among the 15 people aboard the boat, including five soldiers on active duty, three sustained serious injuries,” said an official of the Ministry of National Defense. “One of the three with serious injuries regained consciousness, but the other two are in critical condition and their lives are at risk.”
The sources said those in critical condition are an Air Force captain and the wife of an Air Force major.
The sources said the Navy captain who organized the reunion served as commander of the unit the boat belongs to between 2004 and 2006. He called the current unit commander, who was his junior at the Korea Naval Academy, and received approval to use the boat.
The captain then called a sergeant, surnamed Kwon, who is in charge of the boat, to drive it for the Saturday reunion.
“We plan to summon those responsible for the accident involving civilians,” said a ministry official. The ministry said it is also looking into a tip from a resident in Taean that the boat carried civilians in the past.
The frivolous use of a naval craft has triggered criticism over the complacency and lack of discipline in the military, which lost two Air Force pilots in the crash of a F-5 jet fighter near Gangwon last month.
In a move that could cause further criticism, the military yesterday resumed flights of the F-5 planes, which it had grounded after the crash. The cause of the crash has not been conclusively determined yet.
“As we reached a tentative conclusion that the crash was neither by a fuselage fault nor vertigo, we decided to resume the flights,” said Kim Kyu-jin, a spokesman of the Air Force.
Experts say that without a thorough investigation, another crash is possible. The F-5s are mostly over two decades old. Since 2000, 12 F-5s have crashed.
By Jeong Yong-soo, Moon Gwang-lip [firstname.lastname@example.org]