Australian navy reels after death of recruits

SYDNEY, March 31, 2011 (AFP) - The Australian navy was reeling Thursday after two young recruits were killed and three seriously hurt in a car crash blamed on alcohol.

The deaths came less than a week after Vice-Admiral Russ Crane demanded an end to the service's booze culture in a video address that every member of the navy was required to watch.

The trainee sailors, aged 20 and 22, died when their car slammed into a concrete electricity pole near their base HMAS Cerberus, south of Melbourne.

"They were going too fast certainly, and it also looks like alcohol might have been involved," Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius told reporters, adding that empty alcohol bottles were found in the wreckage.

"Our members are sick to death of attending scenes like this."

Last week, navy chief Crane admitted binge drinking was a problem in the service and vowed to find a solution.

In his tough address to all 14,000 naval personnel, including the trainees involved in the car smash, he said: "Every one of us needs to step up here and address the debilitating effects of alcohol and drug abuse.

"Simply put, it (alcohol) ruins careers, ruins relationships and, ultimately, can kill you."

Crane warned of mandatory breath-tests and curfews on shore leave with his crackdown backed by Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

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