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Safety bill prompted by Florida soldier’s training death becomes law

President Joe Biden signs a bill Aug. 31, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

After a Bradenton, Fla. soldier died in a military training accident in 2019, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan began a campaign to reform training safety standards that culminated this week when new guidelines similar to those proposed by the congressman became law as part of broader legislation.

Bradenton native Nicholas Panipinto died in South Korea when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned. The Army specialist had only six hours of vehicle training at the time. Medical personnel were delayed in responding to the crash scene.

Kimberly Weaver, Panipinto’s mother, said her son “did not have a license, the required amount of driver training or any classroom instruction before beginning his road-test,” according to a press release put out by Buchanan’s office.

“The devastating loss of Nicholas was compounded by the fact that it was totally preventable,” Weaver said. “I am hopeful that when implemented these reforms will help prevent another tragic loss.”

The National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Joe Biden Monday includes language that “closely mirrors” a standalone bill (H.R. 5268) put forward by Buchanan to reform military training, according to Buchanan’s office.

“The legislation requires the Pentagon to: Implement more realistic training practices… Develop stricter enforcement standards… And ensure better oversight to prevent future military training accidents and deaths,” according to the press release.

“The death of Specialist Panipinto is a tragedy that never should have happened,” Buchanan said. “That’s why I’m committed to doing everything I can to make sure that no other family has to endure similar heartache. The greatest tribute we can pay to Nick is to ensure that future and entirely preventable military training accidents never happen again.”

Buchanan earlier worked on legislation that “required the Department of Defense to examine emergency response capabilities and services currently available at U.S. bases 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,” according to his office. That legislation passed as an amendment to last year’s Defense Authorization Act.

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(c) 2021 Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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