Admiral rejects appeal of instructors


PENSACOLA, Fla. -- A vice admiral has rejected the appeals of four Navy instructors who were given non-judicial punishment more than a month ago in connection with the death of a recruit, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday.

Cmdr. Dennis Hessler, a spokesman for the chief of naval education and training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, said Vice Adm. Ron Thunman did not give a reason for rejecting the appeals.


'That's the final decision under military law,' Hessler said.

The four petty officers were among six Navy men blamed in the March 2 death of Lee Mirecki, 19, of Appleton, Wis. Mirecki had a heart attack and drowned during a training class at Pensacola's Rescue Swimmer School.

Testimony at a hearing indicated Mirecki had been diagnosed as having a phobia of water a month before his death. Instructors apparently did not know a psychologist warned that Mirecki should be pulled from the water if he panicked.

Mirecki had a panic-induced heart attack while an instructor was trying to teach him a rescue maneuver which, at the time, required the instructor to try to pull the student under water.

In late June, Petty Officers Richard Blevins, 32, David Smith, 42, Frankie Deaton, 26, and John Zelenock, 25, were were given non-judicial punishment for battery after accepting non-judicial punishment rather than trial.


All were accused of pulling Mirecki back in the water after he fled from the pool and grabbed an equipment rack.

Blevins andSmith were reduced from E-6 to E-5 rank and restricted to base for 30 days. Deaton and Zelenock were reduced from E-5 to E-4, but the sentence was suspended six months. If they stayed out of trouble they could retain rank.

Blevins and Smith also were ordered to forfeit half their base pay for two months.

The punishments for all four were suspended after they filed notices of appeal. Hessler said the unexpended portion of their punishment began again when Thunman rejected the appeals Friday.

Another instructor, Petty Officer Michael Combe, 28, will be court-martialed Aug. 29 on charges of involuntary manslaughter, battery and conspiracy to commit battery. He faces three years confinement and dishonorable discharge.

He is the instructor who allegedly pulled Mirecki under water.

The court-martial of the officer in charge of the school, Lt. Thomas Torchia, 32, was initially slated for Aug. 22. But because of a scheduling conflict, his trial on a dereliction of duty charge will be Aug. 25.

Cmdr. Newell Krogmann of Newport, R.I., will preside over both cases.

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