The type of Canadian Forces vehicle that was involved in a deadly rollover in Alberta is in the midst of a $1-billion upgrade aimed at improving its stability.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Bobbitt, commanding officer of the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery based in Garrison Petawawa, Ont., died Wednesday morning when a light armoured vehicle rolled over during a training mission for Exercise Maple Resolve 2014 at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright.
Four other soldiers from the same regiment were injured; two were taken to hospital in Edmonton in fair condition while two others were treated at the base and released.
The LAV III, as it’s known in the army, has been involved in more than a dozen rollovers since it was introduced in 1999, including several accidents in Afghanistan that resulted in at least five fatalities.
As the vehicles returned from the war, National Defence embarked on an ambitious program to improve the protection, electronics and stability of the vehicle, including the powertrain and suspension. It’s not clear whether Bobbitt’s vehicle had been upgraded.
The refurbishment program, being carried out by General Dynamics Land Systems Inc., is expected to finish work on the army’s entire fleet by 2017.
Military officials wouldn’t reveal any other details of the accident, saying the investigation is continuing.
“This accident is a painful reminder of how Canadian Armed Forces members put their lives on the line every day in the defence of Canada, whether it be in theatre or training here at home,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a release.
“Lt.-Col. Bobbitt lost his life today in the line of duty. His service to our country will be honoured and remembered.”
Bobbitt began his military career in Nova Scotia. He also served as the senior instructor, field artillery, at the Royal Canadian Artillery School.
He served in Bosnia, Afghanistan and worked liaison officer during flooding in Manitoba in 1997.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Lt.-Col. Bobbitt and the injured soldiers and they can be assured that the Canadian Army will provide the best support possible in their time of need,” said Brigadier-General Omer Lavoie, commander of the 4th Canadian Division.
“The Canadian Army cares deeply for each and every member,” said Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, commander of the Canadian Army. “It goes without saying that we take every death seriously and as such we will explore all facets of these situations to try and learn from them while also providing the best support to the army family whenever a death does occur.”
Condolences were also extended by Defence Minister Rob Nicholson.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones as they deal with this tragic loss, and with the families of the four soldiers who were seriously injured.”
About 5,000 military personnel are taking part in Exercise Maple Resolve until June 1.
The military describes it as the largest such exercise being held this year and calls it a “culminating collective training event to validate both of the Canadian Army’s High Readiness task forces.”
The training includes tactical moves, deliberate attacks, mobile defence and assistance to non-governmental organizations.
Besides 4,000 Canadian soldiers, there are also troops from the Royal Canadian Air Force, the U.S. military and 100 soldiers from the United Kingdom.