Need help finding info on Army training accident
March 2, 2012 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Army training accident referred to by Bear Grylls

I was just watching an episode of man vs. wild and Bear referred to an Army training accident in 1996 that killed 50 soldiers from heat exhaustion. After looking I couldn't find a single shred of information on this. Does anyone know what he was referring to?
posted by iz0rz to Science & Nature (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He's British, thus he was probably referring to the British Army. 35 cadets collapsed in 1998, only one died.
posted by desjardins at 2:43 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry but no - I just rewound the show and he says specifically "The baja desert is a lethal place even for the well trained. In 1996, a US Army training course went disastrously wrong and 50 died from heat exhaustion and that included 2 of the rescue party. "
posted by iz0rz at 2:51 PM on March 2, 2012

According to this, "Five-thousand two-hundred forty-six (US army) soldiers were hospitalized, and 37 died due to heat illness" between 1980 and 2002. (Not a direct answer to your question, but seems to indicate that Grylls might be mistaken.)
posted by smilingtiger at 3:04 PM on March 2, 2012

I would take anything Bear Gryllis states as fact with about 30 grains of salt.
posted by cmoj at 3:04 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

I believe the numbers were pulled out of his ass. This paper says that between 1980 and 2002, the US Army had 37 deaths due to heat illness.

On preview, what smilingtiger said.
posted by exogenous at 3:05 PM on March 2, 2012

This Army report (pg. 19) says that only 95 active duty U.S. Army soldiers were hospitalized for heat injuries in 1996. No individual base had more than 24 (Benning). So unless they were reserves or Guard troops this is not possible.
posted by Jahaza at 3:11 PM on March 2, 2012

I didn't think he was a reliable source by any means but I mean that is a pretty large error. It was about 5 minutes into the Baja Desert episode. I definitely agree with you guys on the premise it is factually impossible considering the statistics (I read them as well looking on the internet).

What could he have been referring to? I find it kind of crazy they would just air anything he says since that Army accident information was part of a sound bite that they put in and it wasn't him speaking to the camera.
posted by iz0rz at 3:20 PM on March 2, 2012

Huh. The thing that leapt to my mind is kind of the opposite of this - four Army Ranger candidates died from hypothermia in a training accident in a Florida swamp in 1995.
posted by rtha at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2012

I hate to break it to you, but people on TV sometimes just make stuff up.
posted by Jairus at 3:37 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could it have been 15 instead of 50? Kinda sounds similar.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:55 PM on March 2, 2012

I found this little blurb from 1996 about 15 soldiers dying from heat exhaustion in Baja. I can't tell if they were American or Mexican.
posted by bluefly at 4:07 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yep that would be it, bluefly, and they must have been Mexican because we don't train down there. The closest places I can think of are Yuma, Ft Hauchuca and 29 Palms. I can't think of any training related multiple deaths occurring in any of those places.

FWIW, I love Bear but c'mon man!
posted by snsranch at 4:20 PM on March 2, 2012

Don't know why y'all would assume it needs to be US Army; Bear Grylls isn't even American.

Also, in his accent, 15 is "fif-deen," which can sound like the American 50 ("fif-dee") if you're not paying particularly close attention.

That said, he is a big phoney baloney, so it may well be invented or inaccurate.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:57 PM on March 2, 2012

The poster quoted Grylis as saying it was the US Army.
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on March 2, 2012

A "US Army Training Course" in Baja Mexico may have been US Army personnel training Mexican Armed Forces, and hence it was not Americans who died, not to say they weren't responsible. I don't have time to investigate that possibility at this moment, but perhaps someone else here on LazyNet does. :^)
posted by Sunburnt at 5:42 PM on March 2, 2012

Yes, they appear to have indeed been Mexican forces. An article from the Washington Post archives, "14 Mexican Troops Die in Training Exercise" (Aug 3, 1996), says they were with the Mexican army's 18th Mechanized Calvary Regiment. The discrepancy between 14 and 15 deaths might come from the fact that the Washing Post article is from a day earlier than the article in the Orlando Sentinel identified by bluefly.
posted by RichardP at 11:41 PM on March 2, 2012

If you rewind and turn on subtitles you can see if he said 15 or 50. Assuming the subtitler didn't make the same mistake.
posted by w0mbat at 7:10 AM on March 3, 2012

Discovery Channel has been successful in eliminating English videos online, but youtube has the same episode dubbed in Hindi (no can do) and French (tres bien!).

It is right at the 5 minute mark that the Narrator mentions the incident, and he says quinze (15) not cinquante (50). The words sound nothing like one another in French. The former sounds like "caahhnnz" while the latter is "senk-aunt."

Damn tragedy about the Mexicans, though. 15 is a lot to lose in a combat situation.

P.S. The French version is called "Seul Face รก la Nature," something like "Alone Facing Nature!" which roughly aligns with the British title, "Sole Survivor," which in turn compares to the American title, "Man vs. Wild," which fits us very well.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:20 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

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