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NORFOLK, Va. – Today, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic released the results of a command investigation into the deaths of three USS George Washington (CVN 73) Sailors that occurred in April, 2022.
Besides being assigned to the same ship undergoing an extensive shipyard maintenance period, the investigation concluded the Sailors had no social or working relationships with one another. The findings also indicated that each Sailor was experiencing unique and individualized life stressors, which were contributing factors leading to their deaths.
“We have diligently worked to determine the facts and understand the circumstances surrounding these tragic events with the hope that this will not only provide closure to those grieving the loss of our shipmates, but to learn and better refine our process to address a public health issue that affects families, communities, and our society,” said Rear Adm. John F. Meier, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.
The investigation examined the environment where these Sailors worked, their lives and relationships outside the Navy, and other factors or stressors that may have contributed to their decisions.
“We have taken a number of additional steps to provide for the care and well-being of our service members but the bottom line is that we can, and will, do more for our Sailors and their families. I look forward to the further recommendations that are expected in the coming months to inform future actions, which I am confident will have lasting benefits for our Navy,” said Meier.
Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, directed Meier to investigate the deaths of the Sailors assigned to USS George Washington (CVN 73), to include correlations, and the systemic relationships between them.
“The loss of these three Sailors and the impact their deaths had on their shipmates, family and friends is nothing that can ever be measured,” said Caudle. “We can, however, investigate why they did what they did, learn from it, and use that information to prevent it from happening again. We owe that to every Sailor to keep them physically and mentally safe.”
A second, broader investigation with the purpose of evaluating command climate and quality of service challenges unique to the shipyard environment remains ongoing. This investigation will result in recommendations for immediate, short, and long-term actions to address identified challenges.
This investigation team includes various subject matter experts who will review areas spanning: command climate, safety, habitability, personnel/manning, mental health, security, human factors, Navy policy regarding Sailors residing onboard ship during extended maintenance availabilities, overall shipyard safety, and disciplinary and administrative actions and procedures.
Navy leadership remains fully engaged with the crew to ensure their health and well-being, and to ensure a climate of trust that encourages Sailors to ask for help. Navy leadership has also taken steps to address onboard mental health resources and quality of life considerations. A redacted copy of the phase one investigation is available at FOIA Records (navy.mil).