Crash involving US armored vehicle kills four South Koreans, prompts military to suspend training near northern range
By KIM GAMEL AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 31, 2020
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — A crash involving a U.S. military vehicle killed four South Koreans, prompting U.S. Forces Korea to temporarily suspend training in the area, which is near the border with North Korea, officials said Monday.
An SUV carrying the four civilians rear-ended the armored personnel carrier – a tracked vehicle – at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday on a road near the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in the city of Pocheon, local police and fire officials said.
The four civilians were pronounced dead at the scene, a fire official said. The two soldiers in the military vehicle were not seriously injured. One was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation but was cleared and released back to his unit, according to the 2nd Infantry Division.
USFK expressed “its deepest condolences” to the families and loved ones of the deceased and said the military was fully cooperating with the South Korean police investigation into the crash.
“USFK is aware of the fatal accident near the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex,” the command said in a statement. “Out of respect to those killed and their families, Eighth Army is temporarily suspending training in the area.”
Photos of the scene showed a camouflaged M577 Armored Command Vehicle that was mangled in the back, including damage to the right-side tracks.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry also expressed condolences and promised to work with USFK and other relevant organizations to make sure “follow-up measures are able to be properly implemented in accordance with the results of the investigation into the accident.”
The crash occurred in a sensitive area for the U.S. military. Residents in Pocheon, a mountainous area about 30 miles north of Seoul, have long complained about noise, unexploded ordnances and stray rounds from the range, which is used year-round.
In response, USFK has made a number of safety improvements to the 3,390-acre training complex such as installing 16-foot berms behind targets and deploying explosive ordnance disposal troops to help excavate stray munitions in surrounding areas.
Some 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
Past accidents have stoked anti-American sentiment, especially the 2002 killing of two young South Korean girls who were crushed under a U.S. military vehicle in Yangju, north of Seoul.
However, recent polls show public support is strong for the longstanding alliance between the two countries despite recent disputes over defense cost-sharing and how to deal with the North amid stalled U.S.-led nuclear talks.