Marine Instructor Facing Article 32 Hearing in Recruit Death

Marine water training (file image).
Marine water training (file image).

Marine recruit Pvt. Jason Tharp died last February during water training at Parris Island. Today the base released the results of its investigation into Tharp's death.

The investigation found that Pvt. Tharp's death could have been prevented, and now four Marines are being held accountable for the role they played in his death.

Video aired nationwide showing Tharp being shoved by this drill instructor. He drowned shortly after. The autopsy ruled Tharp's drowning was accidental, but Parris Island conducted its own investigation.

"The investigation found that Pvt. Tharp's death was preventable and that certain violations of the standard operating procedure had occurred," said Maj. Ken White.

Base officials say the water survival instructor failed to recognize or ignored signs that Tharp was too tired or incapable of continuing the training.

"The swim instructor entrusted to train Pvt. Tharp at the time of his death violated procedure by failing to prevent an unsafe situation," said Maj. White.

That instructor is facing an Article 32 hearing, which is like a civilian grand jury.

Disciplinary actions are also being taken against another swim instructor who verbally threatened to throw Tharp into the pool against his will the very day he died. The drill instructor who grabbed and struck Tharp is also in trouble, along with other drill instructors who watched this happening and didn't stop it.

Although base officials say this is an isolated case, they're taking extra measures. "Lessons learned will be incorporated into all training programs here at Parris Island at the drill instructor school," said Maj. White. "In the SOP for swim training and in the standard operating procedures to make sure this doesn't occur again."

The base is also adding another full-time officer at the pool during water training to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.

Although three instructors are being held accountable for this incident, the swim instructor is the only one facing the Article 32 hearing.

Pvt. Tharp was the first recruit to die in water training in 14 years.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com