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National Defense Authorization Act includes amendment following Bradenton soldier's death

National Defense Authorization Act: Why you should care about the NDAA
Posted at 11:16 PM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-01 23:16:30-05

BRADENTON, Fla.-- — Congress voted to override President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act this week. The act also includes amendment filed following the death of a Bradenton soldier.

Army Spc. Nicholas Panipinto died last year when the vehicle he was in overturned during a maintenance road test at Camp Humphreys in South Korea.

Since then, his mother, Kimberly Weaver, has pushed for military training reform.

“This keeps us moving in the right direction and gets lives saved in a potentially quicker manner,” Weaver said.

The amendment filed by Rep. Vern Buchanan requires the Department of Defense to look at emergency response capabilities and services. It requires a feasibility study on the use and maintenance of medical evacuation helicopters and ambulances at military installations, including whether they should be required and how often they’re restocked with supplies. It also requires a look at how often training exercises occur with the use of helicopters and ambulances.

“It’s important to us because his life could have been saved should ambulances and medevacs been readily available and properly equipped. So knowing that we need to move forward to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Weaver.

A copy of a military report on Panipinto’s death Weaver previously provided describes what happened. According to the report, the investigator noted irregularities in the driver’s training program.The report also describes the medical care received. Civilian EMTs responded before additional medics and a surgeon arrived on scene.

According to the report, the investigator stated, “The emergency medical care provided by civilian and military first responders was to the appropriate standard of care” and that necessary equipment and medicines were available.

But according to the report, one statement taken noted concern the civilian EMTs were overwhelmed and didn’t seem to have the correct fluids to administer. Other statements noted delays with Medevacs, one that went to a wrong location and another that had mechanical issues.

An Eighth Army spokesperson previously told ABC Action News:

"The ambulance from the US Army Garrison Humphreys Fire Department responded and was on the scene shortly after being notified about the accident. US Army Garrison ambulances in Korea are equivalent to those found in the U.S. and like those in the U.S., are staffed with Emergency Medical Responders and are equipped with basic and advanced life support capabilities. The AR 15-6 investigation concluded the responding ambulance was fully equipped and its equipment functioned properly."

Another Army spokesperson said installations with large training areas have medevac helicopters and that most installations have ground ambulances. Others have mutual aid agreements with local civilian EMS and medical facilities based on size or mission set.

“The highest tribute that can be paid to the life of Specialist Panipinto is for the Defense Department to ensure that future military personnel who are injured during training exercises can quickly receive high-quality medical treatment that might help save their lives. I am deeply humbled that Nick’s mother came to me with their tragic story and has allowed me to help. I know that these reforms will save lives and prevent future heartache felt by families like hers across the country,” Rep. Buchanan stated in a news release when the defense bill was previously sent to the President’s desk.

For Weaver, the amendment is a first step in the changes she’d like to see.

“He was wonderful and he’s greatly missed and we are happy that out of our tragedy hopefully we can salvage that and no other family or a smaller amount of families will have to go through this,” she said.