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Florida soldier’s death leads U.S. House to approve new medical care rules

Spc. Nicholas C. Panipinto, 20, of Bradenton, Fla., died Nov. 6, 2019 in a Bradley vehicle rollover. (U.S. Army/Released)

By all accounts the November 2019 death of a 20-year-old Bradenton soldier in a training accident in South Korea could have been prevented.

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, to hopefully ensure such a tragedy doesn’t strike again.

Two days after Veterans Day, SPC Nicholas Panipinto’s body returned home to Bradenton and his journey to a local funeral home saw the roadways full of flag-waving mourners to welcome him home.

The House is expected to finalize a version of the NDAA on Tuesday and the bill will be sent to the U.S. Senate for further debate.

However, the amendment, authored by Buchanan after a report revealed the death of Panipinto was preventable, has overwhelming bipartisan support.

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“The heartbreaking and very preventable death of my constituent SPC Nicholas Panipinto clearly shows that changes in training and safety procedures need to be made,” Buchanan said. “The serious deficiencies and failures identified in the report on SPC Panipinto’s death call for immediate reforms within the Department of Defense. I want to make sure that no family has to go through the pain and suffering that SPC Panipinto’s family has faced.”

Panipinto died when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned during a training exercise at Camp Humphrey in South Korea. The ensuing report showed a lack of medical care for soldiers in the field, as well as a lack of overall training required to drive the vehicle.

Buchanan demanded changes from the Department of Defense and those changes took a first step on Monday.

Buchanan’s amendment requires the Department of Defense to examine emergency response capabilities and services currently available at every U.S. military base around the world and to report to Congress on the potential benefits and feasibility of requiring bases to have properly functioning MedEvac helicopters and fully-stocked military ambulances.

The report indicated that one MedEvac helicopter got lost en route to the accident, and a second wouldn’t start. It took two hours to get Panipinto to a hospital where he later died from his injuries.

Between 2006 and 2018, 32 percent all of military deaths were attributed to training accidents.

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© 2020 The Bradenton Herald