Six sailors accused in the drowning of a recruit in a training course face a public hearing this week as Navy officials denied charges by the man's family that they were slow to investigate his death.
Airman Recruit Lee Mirecki, 19, of Appleton, Wis., died March 2 after instructors allegedly dragged him into a pool against his will and held his head under water after he failed a rescue drill.Other recruits reportedly were told to turn their backs to the pool and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" as loudly as they could to drown out Mirecki's screams for help.
Family members say they were told Mirecki's death was an accident, and Navy records in Washington initially attributed his death to natural causes. He was in an air-sea rescue training course at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
The Navy Rescue Swimmer School has been closed since his death, and five instructors were charged with involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy to commit battery. Their commanding officer was charged with dereliction of duty.
Navy and Coast Guard officials were to meet Monday to review curriculum changes. The school could reopen June 15 if the changes are approved by senior Navy officials in Washington.
All or part of a hearing tentatively scheduled for Wednesday on charges against the commanding officer and petty officers will be open to the public, officials say. The hearing is the military's equivalent to a grand jury inquiry.
"We never have had any desire to keep this thing quiet," said Vice Adm. N.R. Thunman, chief of naval education and training.
But Lt. Lee Saunders, a public affairs officer, said portions of the hearing might be closed for legal reasons.