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Chief of Defense Force, Major General Mark Goina confirmed two dead and two injured from the Kupiano incident that took place on Tuesday this week. 

From the two injured, one is a civilian.

The deceased revealed were late Leading Seaman Eric Gwale of Morobe and New Ireland descent, and Cpl. Watata Kutegen from Enga. 

In a press briefing yesterday, General Goina expressed that the matter was a tragic training accident.

General Goina affirmed ongoing investigations into the matter saying the Defense Force is conducting a separate investigation, but are in concert with the police investigation.

“We are cooperating fully with the police and their investigation” he stressed.”

“The first members of our investigation team were on site late yesterday afternoon,” he said.

The general said the team compromises of very experienced and senior members of the PNG Defense Force who have thorough understanding of the training, legal, medical, and ammunition management and supply system of the force.  

“Their terms of reference require them to investigate every aspect of the incident, the immediate lead up to and aftermath, in order to understand how such a tragic incident occurred,” he said.

On this he noted that the team were given 14 days with the possibility of an extension for the investigation, and the families of the deceased and aggrieved along with the media will be briefed once that is made available.

“I will convene a Board of Inquiry to consider the wider context in which this incident occurred and whether there were systemic failures that might have contributed to it,” he went on say.

“It is my intent that the Board of Inquiry be led by an eminent former member of the PNGDF, and again, include relevant subject matter experts” he stated.   

The incident took place on Tuesday the 4th of July at around 5:45 am, during a final assessed exercise for a corporal qualifying course that involved 45 students in all in the vicinity of Kupiano Station.

The exercise was a dawn raid on a notional enemy position, on which the general clarified that on such exercises, only blank rounds are used.

“Some live rounds however, are often issued to nominated personnel in the group for safety and security reasons. There are strict protocols around these as to who gets them and how they are managed” he said.

The general elaborated that the exercise involved a group of soldiers acting as the enemy party. This involved the course assaulting in a formation using fire and maneuver techniques. 

The enemy party, as is common practice, opened fire on the assaulting group. At some point into the exercise assault, it was realized that something had gone tragically wrong and the exercise was immediately stopped and first aid and medivac procedures initiated.

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