Two Navy Divers Killed in Incident at Aberdeen Proving Ground’s “Super Pond”

Two Navy service members died in a diving accident at Aberdeen Proving Ground’s Unexploded Ordnance Range pond Tuesday afternoon, nearly a month after a diver employed at Aberdeen Test Center died at that location.

Killed in the incident were two members of the Navy’s Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two, based in Virginia Beach, Va., according to a statement from the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two.

Emergency personnel from Aberdeen Proving Ground Emergency Services responded to reports of an incident at the pond at approximately 2:30 p.m. One victim was pronounced dead at the scene, while the second was transported to a local hospital, where they were also pronounced dead.

According to the Navy, the service members’ next of kin had been notified Tuesday evening, but the victims’ names were being withheld for 24 hours per Navy policy. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two was conducting an investigation into the deaths of the sailors.

The unexploded ordinance pond at Aberdeen Test Center, also known as the “Super Pond,” was the site of a Jan. 30 accident which killed George Lazzaro, 41, of Nottingham, Md., an employee in the test center’s Firepower Directorate.

According to the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, “the Super Pond provides ATC with the capability and expertise to conduct a wide range of Department of Defense, academia and private industry shock test programs, as well as other research and development and test and evaluation efforts without impact on the environment. The pond has been used for testing here since 1995.”

Following Lazzaro’s death, test center commander Col. Gordon Graham ordered a one-day “safety stand down” on Jan. 31, during which employees reviewed safety procedures and practices.

The Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two’s official Web site outlines their role:

Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) TWO is an expeditionary mobile unit homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek-Ft. Story that deploys in support of diving and salvage operations and fleet exercises in NORTHCOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM, AFRICOM and CENTCOM AOR’s. It’s primary mission is to direct highly mobile, fully trained and equipped Mobile Diving and Salvage Companies to perform combat harbor clearance/search and expeditionary salvage operations including diving, salvage, repair, assistance, and demolition in ports or harbors and at sea aboard United States Navy (USN), Military Sealift Command (MSC) or commercial vessels of opportunity in wartime or peacetime.

Comments

  1. JSP says

    Three deaths in less than one month? It sounds like the safety procedures and practices need to be revisited. Someone needs to be held accountable.

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  2. rj derrick says

    someone needs to check the system that fills their air tanks, i would imagine

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    • Kharn says

      Not necessarily their tanks, divers can become trapped on underground structures or UXO might be disturbed and detonate. Stir up the water with a vehicle or explosion and the divers have to navigate by feel until all of the silt settles to the bottom again. Testing is dangerous, and deep water is unforgiving.

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  3. Charlie L says

    Very sad, but in the same. where is there safety program, and training. Someone needs to be held accountable, they have killed 3 people in a month. Serious Safety issues. Why are they not sending in some of these underwater drones,and Robots the government has, or are they only used to spy on people.
    All of the technology we have today, under water camera`s, drones, robots, all would seem a better solution’s then sending someone into a completely dangerous situation like they must be encountering underwater. Someone really needs to be fired, and sued!!!

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  4. Otto Schmidlap says

    Charlie L. comes off sounding like a sissy ambulance-chaser.

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  5. Diane Sauerborn says

    The two divers were not using individual tanks but were buddy breathing from an air tube. My little experience with this in scuba class was that it is not an ideal situation. During the diving certification test my breathing buddy panicked and would not share the tube. I had to resurface and was given a new buddy. (The first buddy failed the test). We were tested in a muddy lake in Virginia Beach so the limited visibility contributed to the panic factor.

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    • Tom says

      That is incorrect. They were not buddy breathing from a tube, they were diving surface supplied gear. Each diver had his own helmet with his own umbilical to the surface. I have used the same gear to dive in this very pond.

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  6. Mike says

    Three deaths in a month IS beyond acceptable, but you’re jumping to conclusions in the absence of actual knowledge. These operations were not connected, as far as I know.
    As a current Navy Diving Officer and a former member of the ATC Dive Team, I can tell you that there is likely little commonality between the two incidents. Presumably a Navy-run training operation and not a test, the latest deaths would likely have nothing to do with Aberdeen’s practices. (I haven’t heard what killed George Lazzaro, the ATC employee yet. But I knew him and I wouldn’t want to sugarcoat or hide any unsafe practices that would threaten my friends still diving there.)
    The first incident was a SCUBA diving accident, the most recent incident was during a surface-supplied diving operation with constant voice-communications to the divers. Each diver would have had his own separate umbilical connecting him to topside. The January incident was a group of part-time diving civilians, while this new tragedy was a group of highly-trained professional Navy Divers who have stringent safety standards and bring their own recompression chamber with them. Given that both divers in the Navy operation were affected, my initial hypothesis would be contaminated air. Since the Navy brings their own air with them, IF that’s the cause, it has nothing to do with the Army. The Navy regularly tests their air to avoid just this sort of problem, but it can happen.
    I have skin in the game–in both cases, these are my brother divers who’ve been killed, and it could just as easily have been me on a different day. But let’s wait to find out the results of the investigation before you start pointing fingers.

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  7. Amusing! says

    how big/deep is this damn pond anyway?? ‘Super Pond’ sounds like a scary govt sci-fi movie!! I mean, besides being illegal…would just swimming in it I be dangerous?

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    • Kharn says

      Public sources say it is 150′ deep and 1070′ at the largest surface dimension (it is keyhole shaped), “Super Pond” is the nickname due to being the largest on the facility. Recreational SCUBA diving is limited to 130′ or less.

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