Three National Guardsmen Killed in Training Accident
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) _ Three Texas National Guardsmen, reportedly mistaken for pop-up targets, were shot to death by fellow soldiers Wednesday during a night vision training exercise.
″They were hit by fire from other soldiers,″ said Lt. Col. Ed Komandosky, a spokesman at Guard headquarters in Austin.
Spc. Daniel F. Benitez, 27, of Donna; Spc. Jose C. Ramos Jr., 42, of Weslaco; and Sgt. Raul Cardenas, 27, of Weslaco were pronounced dead at Darnall Army Community Hospital in Killeen.
They were outside their Bradley armored vehicles on a range at Fort Hood near Killeen, Komandosky said. He said he didn’t know why they were not in their vehicle.
The troops were participating in an exercise in which night vision equipment was used to fire at pop-up and stationary targets, said Capt. Jane Crichton.
The three were hit by fire from a gun mounted on a Bradley vehicle, said Maj. Ken Roberts, another Army spokesman. WFAA-TV in Dallas quoted sources as saying the men apparently were mistaken for pop-up targets by guardsmen in another Bradley armored vehicle. Roberts declined to comment on that report.
″I can’t say what the guys in the vehicle knew or thought - the ones that fired on the soldiers - we just don’t know. That’s something that will come out,″ he said.
The deaths were being investigated by Army and National Guard authorities, Komandosky said, adding that a safety team from the U.S. Army Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Ala., was on its way to assist.
Komandosky said the victims were members of the 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry of the Texas National Guard in McAllen, had experience in the training exercise and ″had been in the Guard for some time.″
He said they were involved in a 15-day training exercise that was to be completed this week. The men were scheduled to go home on Saturday, he said.
Komandosky said the last fatality involving the Texas National Guard during a training exercise occurred in 1987 when one soldier was killed and several injured in a live firing exercise.