On the spectrum of mishaps, from first aid to last rites, most events fall into the former category. They offer valid lessons, dramatized by the presence of pain and blood. But just because most days you don't have a mishap, and just because when you do have one it is usually minor, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take every precaution to avoid rolling the dice. You just aren't always aware of how bad it might be.
Here are four examples.
In Florida, an aviation machinist's mate second class was changing the oil on his car. When his wife came home for lunch, she checked on his progress and saw his legs sticking out from under the car, which was lying on his body. Apparently, he had jacked up the car, removed the front passenger wheel, shoved an oil-collection pan under the engine and then slid under himself. The car fell off the jack. He couldn't breathe.
Mishap investigators found this warning on the jack: "To avoid personal injury, do not get bodily under a vehicle that is supported only by a jack. Use vehicle support stands."
Neighbors called 911, but paramedics were unable to revive the AD2.
"Member should have changed vehicle's oil at the hobby shop on base," the report added. Barring that, jack stands aren't that expensive.
In North Carolina, a lance corporal spent several hours one night socializing and drinking. Forty-seven minutes after midnight, the officer on duty got a phone call. Someone had found the lance corporal sprawled on the ground next to a building, where he had landed after falling off a third-floor balcony.
His injuries included a broken pelvis, fractured spine, broken ribs, a punctured and collapsed lung, and a fractured skull. Doctors weren't sure he'd ever be able to fully use his left arm.
I don't know how many times, during the past ten years, we've written about the combination of balconies and drunken Sailors or Marines. It never bodes well. Is it the lure of the fresh air? The improved view? The ability to heckle passers-by?
Once you're sloshed, stay inside or take the elevator down to ground level.
Also in North Carolina, an E-6 left a bar and headed out into the night on his Harley. Reportedly, he'd had four beers and mixed drinks during the previous six hours. Whether that's true or not, the only things that mattered were that his B.A.C. was 0.16, that he was in enough of a hurry to try to pass a car in a no-passing zone, and that a law-abiding civilian in a Toyota had slowed down to 20 mph to make a left turn.
During the crash, the E-6 was ejected, suffering severe head injuries. He was taken off life support and declared dead two days later.
While on pre-deployment leave, an E-4 rented a 450cc ATV and took it out to some sand dunes in California. He hadn't been there before, but that didn't keep him from racing over a ridge on a dune. ATV and rider became airborne and separated. The E-4's body ended up 40-45 feet from the bottom of the ridge. "There were no tire marks on the down slope of the sand dune," the report said.
"Recommend ORM-type planning and a recon of the area be done before any off-road vehicle is used," the report added. You'd think that common sense would dictate some recon anyway, but common sense isn't so common.
The report also recommended that "all personnel who operate an off-road vehicle attend a rider safety course"; also good advice, but the report added that such a course was unavailable locally.
Although the report said the E-4's speed was unknown, it also said he "willfully exceeded the speed limit." Whether there are speed limits on sand dunes is an open question, but assuming there aren't, it would make sense to establish your own personal speed limits next time you're blasting around on an ATV. Your recon, line of sight and experience ought to be deciding factors, not your adrenaline levels and how far you can twist the accelerator.
That's all for this time. See you next week.