The Finnish Defence Forces must issue instructions for convoy operations and exercises – safety investigation into an accident leading to the death of a reservist on 27 October 2016 is completed
On 27 October 2016, a reservist of the Pori Brigade died during the convoy exercise of a Finnish crisis management team trained for deployment in Lebanon. The rear of the convoy, which consisted of several vehicles, accelerated in order to maintain a short distance from the vehicles ahead. A reservist who began running during the acceleration stumbled and fell under a Pasi armoured personnel carrier (APC). The victim died soon afterwards, despite rapid first aid.
The Safety Investigation Authority, Finland recommends that the Defence Forces issue instructions for convoy operations and exercises so that infantry protecting the convoy maintain a sufficient distance from the vehicles and the column moves at walking speed when infantry are close to a vehicle. In addition, the vehicles should be continually in communication with each other.
The people interviewed during the safety investigation by the Safety Investigation Authority had diverging ideas of what constitutes a safe distance from a Pasi APC. Instructions exist on the use of Pasi APCs, but the Defence Forces’ regulation or norms do not include instructions on issues such as safe distances during convoy operations and when close to personnel carriers.
- A suitable safe distance from a heavy vehicle in convoy situations is one based on which someone moving on foot cannot fall under or reach and touch a vehicle, and his or her equipment cannot become caught in the vehicle’s projections, says Chief Safety Investigator Kai Valonen.
Those participating in the exercise had been instructed to maintain short distances between and vehicles and, on the other hand, to move at walking pace when dismounted. The reservist fell in a situation in which the convoy accelerated to running speed in order to maintain short distances. For example, the US Army's instructions state that running must be avoided when alongside a vehicle and that infantry must be taken inside vehicles if the speed increases.
There was no communication between the vehicles during the convoy exercise, despite the Defence Forces having communication equipment for use in convoys. Communication could have been used to send messages on the growth in the gaps and the rise in speed, and thereby possibly prevent the situation which led to the accident. Continuous communication reduces misunderstandings and improves safety.
Kai Valonen, Chief Safety Investigator, tel. 0295 150 707 (Twitter: @KValonen)