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Pilots Didn't Follow Orders, General Says

January 22, 2003|From Associated Press

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. — The two U.S. pilots who mistakenly killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan last year showed a "reckless disregard" for standing orders by attacking instead of continuing on their way, an Air Force general testified Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Sargeant, who headed the investigation into the bombing, said the pilots failed to follow procedure by not communicating about gunfire they had spotted on the ground.

"At that point it would have been possible to continue on," Sargeant said at a military hearing to determine whether the pilots will face a court-martial for the deadly bombing in April.

Defense lawyers asked the hearing officer, Col. Patrick Rosenow, to throw Sargeant's testimony out. They said the law bars the opinion of investigators on the cause of the accident from being considered as evidence in civil military proceedings.

Rosenow heard arguments on the issue, but he did not rule.

Majs. Harry Schmidt, who dropped the bomb, and William Umbach, who was flying another F-16 and was mission commander, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and other counts after investigators concluded they had acted rashly by attacking ground fire. Defense lawyers have said the pilots were unaware allied troops were in the area, in part because of poor military communication.

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