Drill sergeant gets 18 months for crash that killed recruits

Posted at 4:05 PM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 16:05:02-05

FORT JACKSON, S.C. (AP) — A U.S. Army drill sergeant who said he was exhausted and working on four hours of sleep on the orders of his superiors will serve 18 months in prison for killing two recruits during a training accident at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Marrow was sentenced Tuesday, a day after he pleaded guilty in a military court to dereliction of duty and negligent homicide.

Marrow was driving a truck hauling a water tank behind a group of marching soldiers on Oct. 6, 2017, when he fell asleep with his foot on the accelerator. The truck hit eight soldiers who could not get out of the way, prosecutors said.

Pvt. Ethan Shrader of Tennessee and Pvt. Timothy Ashcraft of Ohio were pinned beneath the vehicle and died.

Marrow, an Iraq war veteran with a spotless military record, asked for forgiveness before he was sentenced, according to media reports.

During his guilty plea Monday, Marrow said he was at the base until 9 o'clock the night before the wreck and only got four hours of sleep before returning. He said he fell asleep twice before the wreck.

"I awoke to numerous people screaming and shouting," Marrow said, according to The State newspaper, which reported he was in tears as he recounted seeing the recruits under his truck.

One of the critically injured recruits testified she expects to be in pain the rest of her life.

Hannah New said she was hit by the truck's front wheel just after hearing an engine rumble and a different drill sergeant yell, "Watch out!"

She said she saw a drill sergeant pull a jacket over Ashcroft's face because he was already dead. Shrader was groaning in pain and calling for his mother, New testified.

New said she spent nine days in the hospital for liver injuries, a fractured spine and severe muscle and tissue damage. She still undergoes physical therapy and sees a psychologist.

"I could feel as I was hit, being tumbled in the wheel with all the other trainees who were hit," New testified.

The military judge, Col. Charles Pritchard of Fort Bragg, handed down a 22-month sentence for Morrow, but a pretrial agreement from both sides was an 18-month sentence. Military rules go with the lesser sentence. The sentence will be reviewed by a superior officer.

Marrow will be discharged and demoted to private.

In closing statements to the judge, defense attorney Maj. Erik Henderson said the Army set up the events that led to the wreck by pushing drill sergeants. A fellow soldier testified the risk assessment before the march did not check for drill sergeant fatigue and that drill sergeants often work 18- to 20-hour days.

Marrow "didn't have a choice; he was doing his job," Henderson said.

But prosecutor Capt. Samantha Katz said Marrow could have asked for someone else to drive the truck.

"It was Staff Sgt. Marrow's own choices that caused this," Katz said. "Staff Sergeant Marrow will have the opportunity to start over. Private Ashcraft and Private Shrader will never have that opportunity."