Spc. Vincent Sebastian Ibarria was laid to rest last month in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery after he was killed on the 3rd July in a vehicle rollover accident in Afghanistan.

The exact details of Ibarria’s death have not yet been disclosed, but his death is the latest in a series of fatalities amongst service personnel caused by vehicle rollover accidents, which have become a growing concern for the military over the last two decades.  Accidents of this type have occurred in training and on operations.

Ibarria was operating with the 10th Mountain Division in the Farah Province in Southwestern Afghanistan when the accident occurred.  Farah’s rough terrain may have played a role in causing the accident, as approximately 46 percent of the region consists of mountainous terrain.

Alternatively, the vehicle Ibarria was travelling in may have faltered and flipped over on one of Afghanistan’s notoriously bad roads.  According to a report by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, just under half of Farah’s roads can sustain traffic year-round and the majority of roads are gravel or unpaved.  The report is old but infrastructure in the region is unlikely to have improved significantly in the decade since, given the region’s high degree of insurgent activity and subsequent lack of investment.

Until the Department of Defence discloses the circumstances of the accident, it will be impossible to say exactly what led to this fatality and whether it was preventable.  Nevertheless, it is a painful reminder that more must be done to prevent vehicle rollovers, which are the leading cause of military motor vehicle accidents.

Military vehicle rollovers, both in theatre and in training, tend to be caused by a combination of poor visibility and difficult terrain.  Adopting technology which can enhance the vision and situational awareness of vehicle crews should be a priority to improve vehicle safety.  Improvements would be especially welcome for top-heavy vehicles that are more prone to rolling over and would likewise be welcomed by units who tend to spend more time operating off-road.

The risks servicemen and women face cannot be eliminated entirely, but this should not deter the Department of Defense from striving to minimize the frequency of motor vehicle accidents. 

Written by Alexander Gale on behalf of Covnergent3D