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Report: Sailor abandoned friend after fatal fall from train

Oct. 21, 2013 - 05:43PM   |  
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A Japan-based sailor found dead last year face down on a train platform with empty cans of alcohol near his body wasn’t alone the night he died — and the sailor who was with him has been kicked out of the Navy, Stars and Stripes reported.

Initial Japanese media reports said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Samuel Lewis Stiles, 25, was climbing on top of a train last October when he was shocked by an overhead power line and fell to his death. But in a report Sunday, Stars and Stripes cites Navy documents showing Stiles died of respiratory failure brought on by a spinal fracture, not electrical shock.

Stripes also reported Stiles’ friend, GM2 David Lange, witnessed the accident but didn’t seek medical attention for, or act to save, his fellow sailor, according to a Navy investigation.

Lange pleaded guilty to multiple charges at a September court-martial in Yokosuka — failure to obey an order, making false official statements, drunk and disorderly conduct, and failure to render aid — according to the Navy’s list of court-martial verdicts from that month. Despite his plea, the judge found Lange not guilty of failing to render aid; he was convicted on the rest of the charges and given a bad-conduct discharge, reduced in rank to E-1, fined $10,000 and jailed for eight months.

Stars and Stripes reported the initial investigation into Stiles’ death found it was a result of misconduct and not in the line of duty. But Adm. Cecil Haney, then-commander of Pacific Fleet, reversed that finding in his final endorsement, signed Sept. 6, the newspaper reported.

Haney stated there was evidence Lange lied to investigators and had “abandoned” his friend on the platform after Stiles fell from the top of the train, Stripes reported. Haney called Stiles’ actions “careless” rather than criminal, the report said.

Stiles had been assigned to Navy Munitions Command, East Asia Division, Detachment Sasebo, since October 2010. He enlisted in September 2006 and had previously served aboard the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.

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