Commander Faulted For Fatal Mishap On San Diego-Based Ship Up For Promotion

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Cmdr. Jana A. Vavasseur

The former commanding officer of the San Diego-based USS William P. Lawrence was faulted in a Navy report for misjudgements that caused the deaths of two Navy pilots. So it's no wonder the widows of the two pilots are mystified as to why Cmdr. Jana A. Vavasseur is up for a promotion.

The fatal accident took place on Sept. 22, 2013, when a wave hit the Lawrence, causing an MH-60S helicopter (with Lt. Cmdr. Landon L. Jones, 35, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan S. Gibson, 32, still inside) to break its chains and slide off the flight deck and into the Red Sea.

A Navy report on the accident, obtained by Stars and Stripes, put the blame for the mishap on Vavasseur's shoulders - citing her decision to change course as soon as the MH-60S helicopter had landed on the Lawrence's flight deck.

U.S. Pacific Fleet commanding officer Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. wrote in the report:

“There was time to rectify the situation by simply reducing speed after taking (the helicopter) aboard. [A] significant reduction in speed, thereby creating a more stable platform, could have been achieved in seconds.”

The widows of Jones and Gibson are outraged that the Navy selected Vavasseur for a coveted major command, one that would allow her to "lead prestigious fleet commands like cruisers, amphibious assault ships and destroyer squadrons."

Jones's widow, Theresa Jones, told the Navy Times:

"She [Vavasseur] is able to continue on and get promoted, and enjoy her accolades and the praise, while we deal with darkness."

Gibson's widow, Chrissy, added:

"The main two things we wanted as wives and families left behind: We wanted justice; we wanted there to be consequences."

The women plan to write letters to Navy officials, hoping they will impede Vavasseur's promotion.

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