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Navy acts after drownings of Gladstone diver and colleague

The commander of a Virginia-based Navy dive unit has been reassigned after two divers, including one from Gladstone, drowned at an Army test pond near Baltimore, the Navy said Wednesday.

Two unidentified members of the dive unit also face military criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter and dereliction of duty in the drowning deaths of Gladstone resident Ryan Harris, 23, and a fellow diver from Ohio. A hearing is scheduled May 21.

Cmdr. Michael Runkle was removed as commander of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, according to Navy spokesman Lt. Nathan Potter.

Potter said the Navy first learned in January of morale and leadership concerns in Runkle's command. Unspecified administrative actions were taken to address those problems, he said.

Then on Feb. 26, Ryan and the other man drowned at an underwater weapons-testing facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. That prompted a command investigation that revealed continued “climate weaknesses,” the Navy said in a news release.

The investigation also revealed previously unknown safety issues, which the Navy said were contributing factors in the decision to relieve Runkle of his duties.

The Associated Press