After the death of three divers at the Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) Underwater Explosion Test Facility, the facility's commander closed the "Super Pond" indefinitely, Aberdeen Proving Ground announced Friday.
ATC Commander Col. Gordon A. Graham ordered the facility closed on Feb. 26, after two Navy divers died following a planned operation in the 150-foot-deep, man-made pond.
Those deaths come one month after an ATC diver also died following a procedure in the water. They are the first recorded injuries or deaths at the facility since it opened in 1995, according to a statement from Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The man-made pond is 1,070 feet long and 920 feet wide with a maximum depth of 150 feet. It was built when the Navy sought a controlled environment to conduct open water tests, the release stated.
It also provides the Army with the ability to conduct research and testing, including testing on "vessels, submarine systems and subsystems, torpedoes, missiles, warheads, amphibious vehicles, Remotely Operated Vehicles, underwater gun firing and acoustics," according to the release.
"The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and Aberdeen Test Center are troubled by the loss of two Navy divers February 26, and our personal loss January 30," Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, ATEC Commanding General said in a news release. "Right now, members of the APG community are mourning the loss of these two servicemen. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the shipmates of the Navy Divers."
Graham ordered a safety stand-down following the . Similar safety stand-downs are routine monthly procedure, according to the release.
"We conduct risk assessments prior to any training or testing event and review safety procedures for those events," Graham said in the statement. "The health and safety of our workforce is our number one priority, and these assessments allow us to mitigate risk as best as we can."
The Navy dive was scheduled before that order, according to Friday's news release. It remained scheduled as part of an agreement between ATC and the Navy, which was to use its own procedures, equipment and personnel, the release stated.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investingating the Jan. 30 accident, according to the release.
APG said the second accident is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Army.
"We are cooperating with all investigation agencies," Dellarocco said. "Should the results determine that we need to take corrective action, we will do so expeditiously for the safety of all personnel working at the Super Pond. Our people are our most valuable resource, and we are committed to ensuring their safety."
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