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Navy Diver Gives His Life Not To Leave Another Behind

August 04, 2014

Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Harris was one of two Navy divers who died during an diving accident on Feb. 26, 2013. (Seaman Jah’mai C.J. Stokes | U.S. Navy)

A Navy diver stayed with another trapped sailor in the murky depths at the bottom of a Maryland pond until their air ran out in a training accident February 26, 2013.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Harris will be awarded posthumously the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Investigators reconstructed the events at the bottom of the Super Pond at Aberdeen Proving Grounds that cold winter day.

The investigation, conducted more than 16 months ago, was released last week to The Virginian-Pilot under the Freedom of Information Act. It pinpointed a series of failures that contributed to the training accident that day at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland: bad leadership, poor decision-making and faulty equipment.

But none of that could blunt the heroism that the investigator discovered between the two drowning men: With Reyher trapped by debris at the bottom of the pond, Harris remained at his side, struggling to free his buddy until both men died.

“Harris exhausted himself in an attempt to save Reyher,” the investigator concluded. “Both divers resisted the natural instincts of self-preservation, in order to expel his last breaths in an effort to save each other.”