The death of a Navy SEAL in an off-hours parachute accident last year occurred in the line of duty and was not due to misconduct, a Navy investigation found.While I'm sorry to hear of Petty Officer Stimson's death last year, I'm glad to see the Navy is standing by him and ensuring that he's remembered as the hero that he was and not just casting him aside, as our government is typically so wont to do, especially in these times.
Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Stimson died July 16, 2010, while parachuting off a cellphone tower in Suffolk. He was BASE jumping - a high-risk, often illegal sport that involves parachuting from fixed objects.
Stimson, 30, was a member of Virginia Beach-based Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known informally as DEVGRU or SEAL Team 6. The unit attracted worldwide attention in May when it killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Stimson's conduct did not rise to the level of recklessness or willful neglect, the commander of the unit wrote in his report, noting that he was engaging in an activity "closely resembling those which our operators engage in every day."
"To succeed, we must train hard and accept risks most others would refuse," he wrote. "Risk is inherent in our daily lives."
The investigation report was provided to The Virginian-Pilot last month in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Names of the commanding officer and other principal players in the investigation were deleted.
The "line of duty" determination means that Stimson's dependents are eligible for military survivor's benefits, said Lt. Arlo Abrahamson, a Navy special warfare spokesman.
Stimson was married with no children.
Abrahamson said the determination was made in accordance with Navy legal standards. Under those standards, simple negligence, or carelessness, does not constitute misconduct, he said.
Stimson took numerous steps to mitigate the risk, the commander wrote. He was an experienced sky diver who donned the proper gear, attended training classes, consulted experts in the field and planned his jumps thoroughly.
Stimson was a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and a recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
As many as 10 members of SEAL Team 6 have been known to engage in BASE jumping in their off-duty hours, the investigation found.
The acronym "BASE" stands for building, antenna, span and earth.
A fellow SEAL, Jason James Tompsett, 31, was with Stimson in the predawn incident and jumped off the tower successfully. He was charged with trespassing by Suffolk police. The charge was dismissed in Suffolk General District Court.
"While I do not condone trespassing," Stimson's commanding officer wrote, "the trespassing did not proximately cause" Stimson's death.
In response to the accident, the commander wrote, the Navy initiated "a thorough review of high-risk activities specifically concentrating on off duty recreational activities."
It remains unclear whether BASE jumping is an approved recreational activity for SEALs.
"We don't publicly discuss specific approved and disapproved training and recreational activities within our command," Abrahamson said by email, "but we can tell you any approved activity is carried out in a manner consistent with Navy safety instructions and in good judgment with regards to operational risk management."
Stimson's jumping partner found him lying face-down on top of his canopy with its suspension lines wrapped around his feet. He died of multiple impact injuries to the head, neck and torso.
None of his equipment was found to be defective.
A Navy parachute specialist who examined Stimson's gear told investigators it appeared that Stimson rolled into a head-down position in which the lines became entangled in his legs, causing the canopy to engulf him. In such a short jump, he didn't have time to disentangle himself.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Navy does right by fallen SEAL
It's not often that the government stands by one of it's own, especially one killed while doing something in their off-duty hours, but in this case, I think that the Navy did right in declaring the BASE jumping death of US Navy SEAL Tyler Stimson to be duty-related.