Skip to main content /US /US

Sources: Pilot primarily to blame for Kuwait bombing accident

Scene from the bombing accident  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Investigators have concluded that the U.S. Navy pilot who dropped three errant bombs in Kuwait that killed six people last month is primarily responsible for the accident, according to Pentagon sources.

The Associated Press, quoting officials familiar with the investigation, reports that Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf area, has recommended a possible court-martial for Cmdr. David Zimmerman. The pilot of the F-18 Hornet dropped three bombs on the observation post.


It is "clear that the pilot misidentified the target" said one Pentagon official, "but the forward air controller on the ground also (authorized) the pilot to bomb his own position."

"There were procedural problems" with the training mission, the official said, and the accident "required multiple points of failure."

Six people, including four U.S. Army soldiers, an Air Force air controller and a New Zealander, were killed in the March 12 accident.

The Associated Press reports that Franks recommended punishment for a Navy pilot who was directing the other pilot's bombing run from another plane in the training exercise. His name has not been released.

Franks also recommended punishment for Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Crusing, who as forward air controller on the ground shared responsibility for directing the pilot to his target, officials told the Associated Press.

Franks' recommendation did not prescribe specific punishments, according to the Associated Press.

Senior Pentagon officials familiar with the U.S. Central Command investigation told CNN that a planned review of this initial conclusion by the Navy, Air Force and Army may amend or alter the final report.

A Pentagon official told CNN that in the six months before the accident there had been three incidents in which military aircraft dropped live bombs dangerously close to observer positions on the range. The official suggested that there was systemic problems with the management of the range and its procedures, and said that information would come out in the planned review of the findings.

"You can blame the pilot for dropping the bombs, but he had an awful lot of help", he said.

One senior official predicted that the planned inter-service review of the initial findings is likely to spread the blame more broadly among the various players in the incident.

That review of the initial findings is expected to take at least two weeks, the official said.

CNN National Security Producer Chris Plante contributed to this report.

U.S. jet accident kills 5 in Kuwait
March 12, 2001
Kuwait celebrates liberation
February 26, 2001
Western leaders join Kuwait to mark Gulf War win
February 25, 2001

U.S. Navy
  • Navy Fact File: F/A-18 Hornet Aircraft
  • USS Harry S. Truman
U.S. Air Force
The Pentagon: Headquarters of the United States Department of Defense
Exercise Intrinsic Action begins Exercise Intrinsic Action
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top