Navy Swimming Instructor Found Guilty in Drowning
A five-officer jury convicted a Navy swimming instructor today of negligent homicide and conspiracy to commit battery in the drowning of panicked Airman Recruit Lee Mirecki, 19.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Combe of Tempe, Ariz., showed no reaction when the verdict was announced. He faces a total of 1 1/2 years in confinement and a bad conduct discharge.
Combe’s family at the court-martial clustered around his mother, who was seated and sobbed quietly.
During an exercise March 2 called “sharks and daisies"--in which instructors act like panicking survivors and grab students in head holds to see if they can escape--Mirecki fled from the Navy pool in panic, grabbed an equipment rack and asked to quit the voluntary training.
Prosecutors said Combe and other instructors yanked Mirecki, 19, of Appleton, Wis., from the rack and threw or pushed him back in the water. Combe allegedly put a rear head hold on Mirecki and forced his head under water to get him to release a rope in the middle of the pool.
Around that time, the other students were told to turn and sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
A pathologist testified Mirecki had a phobia of being dragged underwater, which triggered heart failure before he drowned.
Combe is the first serviceman to be convicted in the death. One officer was acquitted, and four instructors were punished administratively.