09 August 2009

Army Completes Staff Sgt. Maseth Death Investigation

The Army announced Friday that the investigation into the tragic death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth has been completed. The extensive, eleven-month investigation conducted by the Army Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove that any one person, persons or entity was criminally culpable in the death of Maseth.

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology medical examiner previously found the cause of Maseth's death to be electrocution and the manner accidental. The completed Criminal Investigation Division death investigation concurs with those findings.

"This has been a complex investigation involving numerous people, circumstances and contractual agreements," said Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, commanding general, U. S. Army Criminal Investigations Command. "It was a lengthy, thorough and detailed investigation. Reviewing the many documents and issues did take an extraordinary amount of time, but we wanted to do everything we could to get it right. We owe that to Staff Sgt. Maseth and his loved ones."

The investigation revealed that there were numerous entities and individuals, both contractors and government employees, who breached their respective duties of care; however none of those breaches, in and of themselves, were the proximate cause of his death. The investigation was closed with a finding that there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove any criminal negligence in the soldier's death.

"As with all of our criminal investigations, if new, credible information becomes available, we stand ready to reopen the investigation to pursue the truth, wherever it may lead," Johnson said.

There have been 18 reported deaths due to electrocution in Iraq since March 2003, including 16 service members and two contractors. Fourteen of these cases occurred in the field away from military facilities or in work situations that included performing maintenance on electrical systems.

After a series of electrical accidents and incidents, Multi-National Force–Iraq created Task Force Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity in August 2008 to assess and analyze fire and electrical safety issues in Iraq and then direct actions to remedy those hazards.

As of July 25, the task force has inspected more than 67,000 of the approximately 90,000 pieces of equipment and facilities in Iraq, many of which were substandard structures dating from the Saddam Hussein era. The task force is ahead of schedule to complete the inspections by November. The inspections have led to the correction of nearly 14,000 deficiencies found thus far as the facilities are brought into compliance with the United States National Electric Code. Most deficiencies have been related to electrical grounding and bonding that enables the proper functioning of circuit breakers.

Since Maseth's death, there has not been another confirmed electrocution death of a soldier in Iraq.
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