WATCH: Nearly a decade after a deadly training incident at CFB Wainwright, some of the recommendations to improve safety still haven’t been implemented. As Jacques Bourbeau reports, the family of Private Patrick Dussureault wants to know why.
OTTAWA – Nearly a decade after a deadly training accident at CFB Wainwright in Alberta, the military still hasn’t implemented all the recommendations to improve safety for soldiers, Global News has learned.
And since then, another soldier has died.
Pte. Patrick Dessureault was killed in 2005 after the Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) he was travelling in drove over the edge of a six-metre cliff, and flipped upside down in the Battle River.
Two soldiers escaped out a back door, but Dessureault was trapped inside, and it took rescuers 40 minutes to get him out.
When these types of accidents happen, the military holds an internal review called a Board of Inquiry.
The review into Dessureault’s death came up with 11 recommendations to improve safety at CFB Wainwright.
But nine years later, Global News has learned not all of the recommendations are in place.
”If we have a report and we have recommendations not being implemented, that defeats the whole purpose of the Board of Inquiry,” says NDP Defence critic Jack Harris.
One of the inquiry’s recommendations was to amend the Wainwright Range Standing Orders – the rules that govern the training range – as well as training manuals to include a paragraph that “the Battle River represents a potential threat for night mechanized operations.”
Global News requested a copy of the standing orders from Wainwright, but this change was not yet included.
In an email, the Canadian Armed Forces said they are still working on it.
“All geographical range control standing orders are being consolidated into a single standing order that would include the above statement,” a spokesman wrote.
Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel with 34 years of service, says that’s not good enough.
“If what is happening in DND now were happening in the civilian domain, in hospitals, or police forces or in construction – there would be outrage. And reasonably so because we’re putting other people at risk,“ says Drapeau, who is also a lawyer.
He says when these internal inquiries are done there should be immediate action.
“Immediate means months or weeks, certainly not years.”
A second death
Drapeau says the root of the problem is that boards of inquiries are done behind closed doors, so there is no public accountability to ensure the recommendations are acted upon. He thinks that a coroner’s inquest – which is open to the public –would be the best way to handle these types of deaths in the military.
“We all have a stake in it. The public should be involved in this search for solutions, the search for reducing risk,” says Drapeau.
The army says that it is up to senior officers in the chain of command to implement the recommendations of an inquiry.
Following Dessureault’s accident, the military says some of the recommendations that were specific to improving safety at Wainwright have been completed.
The army says they have installed signs near the Battle River bridge and other crossings to highlight the dangers of the cliff.
It is not clear when the signs were installed, and whether it was before or after Global News made inquiries.
It is also not clear how many of the 11 recommendations have been fully implemented.
A spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson says the government looks forward to the completion of the LAV III upgrade project that will further improve the capabilities and safety of the vehicle.
“Our government has also taken action to streamline Boards of Inquiry and ensure that military families who have lost their loved ones get the closure they deserve,” Johanna Quinney said in an email.
Global News started investigating the 2005 training accident after another soldier was killed in a LAV rollover this spring in Wainwright.
In May, Lt.-Col. Dan Bobbitt was killed during a training accident that injured four others.
Watch: Soldier killed during CFB Wainwright training exercise
After contacting Dessureault’s family in May to see if any changes have been made, Dessureault’s brother Samuel said the family never received the final report from the military.
“I don’t know what the army has done to correct this situation,” Samuel Dessureault told Global News at the time.
“How many losses do we have to endure before they do something?”
Several weeks after Global News contacted the Defence Department to find out why the Dessureault family had not received a copy of the Board of Inquiry report, DND officials showed up at the family’s house to present the final report. And nine years since their son’s untimely death, they now know what really happened.
But until all the recommendations are fully implemented, Drapeau says the family will not have closure.
“What I hear from grieving families is that they want to know that their sons and daughters who lost their lives in military service have not died in vain,” he said.
“Something can be learned to save another life.”