10 Dec 2014

Military court clears soldiers of charge

7:57 am on 10 December 2014

Both soldiers charged with negligently continuing a training exercise in which a man drowned on a lake near Waiouru have been found not guilty.

Private Michael Ross

Private Michael Ross Photo: AAP

Corporal Timothy Goodall and Sapper Jamie Larsen appeared at a military trial today over the death of Private Michael Ross two years ago.

Timothy Goodall was the commander of the boat Private Ross fell from on Lake Moawhango, and Jamie Larsen was the coxswain.

The court had to decide whether they should have stopped the deflating boat to inflate it.

The pair said the lake was rough and if they had stopped, the boat could have filled with water and put more lives in danger.

Disciplinary officer Lieutenant Colonel Brett Stott said he was satisfied Corporal Goodall made the right call and probably would not have been able to inflate safely in the circumstances.

However, he breached army regulations by not ensuring all weapons were tied to the boat.

Lieutenant Colonel Stott said while that did not cause Private Ross to drown, the gun's weight was a contributing factor.

Corporal Goodall pleaded guilty to that charge, and was fined $500 and ordered to serve 10 days' extra duty.

A third soldier, who has name suppression, has been found guilty of failing to comply with orders.

A spokesperson for the family of Private Ross, Charles Hohaia, says it accepts the acquittal of two soldiers providing the army improves its procedures to prevent more avoidable deaths.

Mr Hohaia says the family is concerned the two accused could have been made scapegoats for senior staff.

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