Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Talks With U.S. Senate Armed Services Chairman About Death of Bradenton Soldier

Oct 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan said today key congressional leaders have expressed strong support for his proposal to reform military training protocol following the accidental death of a Bradenton soldier. 

Buchanan said U.S. Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe and House Armed Services ranking member Mac Thornberry we’re both "extremely receptive” to his reforms aimed at preventing accidental deaths.                                 

During his talk with Chairman Inhofe, Buchanan detailed the numerous failures that contributed to the accidental death of Army Specialist Nicholas Panipinto last year in South Korea. 

Inhofe agreed that military training must be reformed across all branches of the military in order to prevent unnecessary and tragic deaths like Panipinto’s.

Thornberry said he supported Buchanan’s call for a congressional hearing on ways to prevent training accidents and also agrees with the need for reform. In particular, Thornberry supported a Buchanan amendment inserted in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the Pentagon to examine emergency medical response services and capabilities  at U.S. military bases around the world.

Thornberry said Buchanan’s amendment could have a significant impact in preventing another tragic accident like Specialist Panipinto’s and confirmed that it was “very likely” to be included in the final NDAA conference report passed into law later this year. The House and Senate have passed competing versions of the annual defense policy bill and the two must be reconciled in conference committee and then passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. 

Buchanan said he appreciated the support of Inhofe and Thornberry, two members of Congress he has worked with closely over the years. “I’m thankful to Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Thornberry for their support for our service members and for their commitment to seeing this issue addressed,” Buchanan said. 

“No family deserves to face the pain and suffering that Nick’s family has faced,” Buchanan added. 

Panipinto died last November when the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was driving overturned during a road-test. Numerous safety and training failures contributed to Specialist Panipinto’s death, including, a lack of medical services on base and significant delays in medical response to the scene of the accident.

In fact, according to the unit investigation, Camp Humphreys did not have a military ambulance available to quickly transport Specialist Panipinto to a medical facility for emergency medical treatment and a civilian ambulance that responded to the scene of the accident lacked critical life-saving medical supplies. Additional failures included one MedEvac helicopter getting lost in route and another which could not even start in the first place. Specialist Panipinto eventually arrived at a hospital two hours after the accident and died from his injuries later that day. 

In June, Buchanan sent a letter to Inhofe and Thornberry detailing the disturbing revelations surrounding the case of Panipinto and called for several changes to the military’s current training and safety protocols to be addressed in the annual defense policy bill. He sent a similar letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. 

“The highest tribute that can be paid to the life of Specialist Panipinto is for the Defense Department to make sure that future military personnel injured during training exercises can quickly receive high-quality medical treatment,” Buchanan said.

Deaths during training exercises have risen dramatically in recent years. In 2017 alone, nearly four times as many service members died in training accidents than were killed in action.