FORT HOOD — The convoy of four vehicles was due to leave at 9 the morning of June 2, 2016, but rain would delay the majority of the soldiers who were supposed to conduct the training exercise, according to the Army report on a military vehicle crash that killed eight soldiers and one West Point cadet.
The members of Distribution Platoon, Forward Support Company, were supposed to leave from the company motor pool and travel along East Range Road to North Fort Hood Training Area 12. The training exercise was planned well in advance and a risk management worksheet was completed nearly a month earlier.
The commander of Forward Support Company, which is part of 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, received a concept of operations briefing the day before, and everything was set to go.
Before the delayed departure, the convoy commander — Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colonvazquez, who was also the acting platoon sergeant — conducted all the necessary checks and inspections of required items for the troops before doing preventative maintenance checks on the vehicles. One soldier, Pvt. Eddy Raelaurin Gates, was new to the unit and hadn’t been to get her personal gear yet, so a helmet had to be found for her.
The convoy left at 10:15 a.m., following the planned route. In the group were a high Mobility multi-wheel vehicle, or HMMWV, the family of medium tactical vehicles carrying Colonvazquez and Gates, followed by a palletized loading system vehicle and a fuel truck. None of the vehicles had a radio, so communication would go through personal cellphones.
When the convoy neared the training area, the lead vehicle occupants called to say they were unsure of the next turn, so Colonvazquez took his vehicle into the lead. They turned onto a tank trail shortly after mile marker 11 and passed through two areas of stagnant water before coming up to the low-water crossing on Owl Creek. After a brief pause, Colonvazquez’s truck entered.
Immediately after entering the water, the Army report states, the vehicle made an abrupt right turn before the front end began to dip and the truck rolled over onto the passenger side and began drifting away. Three troops were in the front of the vehicle and nine were in the back. Three of the soldiers in back were able to get free and were eventually rescued. The other nine would not survive.
The remaining soldiers in the convoy attempted to rescue the other nine, but the current was too strong to safely enter.
The soldiers who died were Colonvazquez, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York; Gates, of Dunn, North Carolina.; Spc. Christine Faith Armstrong, 27, of Twentynine Palms, California; Florida residents Pfc. Brandon Austin Banner, 22, of Milton, and Pfc. Zachery Nathaniel Fuller, 23 of Palmetto; Pvt. Isaac Lee Deleon, 19, of San Angelo; Spc. Yingming Sun, 25, of Monterey Park, California; and Jersey City native, Pvt. Tysheena Lynette James, 21. West Point cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey, of Indiana, also died.
All findings concerning the cause of the accident, who could be to blame and the recommendations were blacked out in the Army report. A separate investigation conducted by Fort Hood and provided in early 2017 to families of those who died blames the accident on a series of three successive decisions made by Colonvazquez, but it is unclear whether the Army report findings concur because they are covered up with dark markings.
For articles on the earlier report, go to: