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The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center this week reported 96 soldier and Army civilian accidental deaths for fiscal year 2020, making it the safest year on record, besting the previous low of 109 accidental deaths in 2016. Many of the deaths involved traffic accidents.
The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center this week reported 96 soldier and Army civilian accidental deaths for fiscal year 2020, making it the safest year on record, besting the previous low of 109 accidental deaths in 2016. Many of the deaths involved traffic accidents. (U.S. Army)

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The Army recorded its fewest accidental deaths on record in 2020, as coronavirus restrictions kept more soldiers off the road and hunkered down at home.

There were 96 soldiers and Army civilians recorded as “mishap fatalities” for the fiscal year, less than the previous low of 109 accidental deaths in 2016, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s annual safety report found. Of the 96 deaths, 25 happened on duty.

The reduction was likely because of restrictions and possibly curtailed training activities brought on by the pandemic, the report said.

“(W)e can look at trends from past years, especially with private motor vehicles, and be reasonably confident stop-movement orders and restricted travel had a positive net effect on mishaps in 2020,” Brig. Gen. Andrew C. Hilmes, USACRC commanding general and director of Army Safety, said in a statement.

There were 18 accidental deaths for soldiers involved in ground duty, down from 24 in the previous year. Vehicle rollovers were responsible for eight of the deaths, the Army said.

While Army aviators recorded fewer Class A accidents for the year — six compared to 12 in 2019 — there were more deaths in 2020.

Class A accidents typically involve crashes of more than $2 million in losses, which also result in at least one death.

Seven soldiers died in the crashes compared to two in the previous year, the Army reported. Four of the six Class A mishaps involved Black Hawk helicopters. The other two accidents involved an MC-12 and an AH-64.

Despite coronavirus restrictions, the Army’s manned aviation force completed 90% of planned flying hours, the Army said.

“That fewer mishaps were actually deadlier is a tragic reminder of the inherent danger in flight operations,” Hilmes said. “We can lose entire crews in a single crash.”

Accidents cost the Army more than $1 billion in losses, the service said.

Meanwhile, off-duty accidental deaths dropped from 91 last year to 71 in 2020. The Army said the decline was likely caused by fewer soldiers traveling for leisure in connection with pandemic restrictions. Fifty-three of the 71 deaths were the result of motor vehicle accidents.

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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