Y2015-05 Shooting accident leads to death of conscript in Syndalen, Hanko, on 16 December 2015
A shooting accident, in which a conscript died, occurred on a Finnish Defence Forces shooting range in Syndalen, Hanko, on 16 December 2015. During night combat firing practice by the Naval Academy, a conscript mistook one of his comrades for a target and shot him with an assault rifle equipped with a night vision scope. The shot conscript died quickly, despite immediate first aid.
To inexperienced riflemen, targets marked with reflective material and combatants marked with glow sticks can easily be mistaken for each other in the dark. A night vision scope, for the use of which routines had not yet been developed by the squad, was used during the firing. It was very dark at the time of the accident, which weakened the performance of the night vision scope.
During the shooting, the targets were placed in such a manner that the shooter's patrol on the left had nothing to shoot at in front of it. The placement dangerously directed the attention and firing of the shooter's patrol towards the victim's patrol. It was difficult for the conscripts and instructors to maintain a picture of the situation during the firing. In addition, the conscripts' perceptions of the permissible direction of fire varied. In the firing command, the plan for the movement of firing and targeting was presented in vague terms, which enabled the positioning of the targets noticeably to the right of the direction of advance. Risk analyses of firing commands take no account of the specific features of firing exercises, the skills of the squad engaged in firing and the circumstances in which firing takes place.
The firing practice was too demanding for the squad in relation to its previous training. There had been too little preparatory training in direct firing. Other units had safer practices when engaging in firing of a similar kind. The Finnish Defence Forces have no procedure for exchanging information between different units on safe practices during firing.
Very little cooperation has been agreed between the Finnish Defence Forces and non-Defence Force authorities. There was no awareness during the accident of the rescue service point used by the Defence Forces and no preparations had been made for communication via Virve phones. The unit's lack of a crisis support plan hampered access to crisis support in such a manner that, for example, there were no procedures for alerting the local health and social services.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that
• The Finnish Defence Forces develop a risk firing practice analysis method, support material and orientation for those in command of firing practice in such a manner that risk analysis takes account of the special features, conditions and the skills of the unit involved in the firing practice in question.
• The Finnish Defence Forces should define those actions which pose the greatest danger and develop a procedure for the exchange of information on the best and worst possible practices. In this way, practices will develop and the acquired skills will improve safety in all units and branches of the Finnish Defence Forces.
• The Finnish Defence Forces should develop a continuous process whereby emergency planning at training grounds and military bases includes a review of the emergency instructions of various actors and their ability to operate during accidents, and in which cooperation procedures are agreed. The key stakeholders are the Emergency Response Centre, the regional rescue service, first aid, other health care services and, with regard to crisis support, the local social services.