Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hurt soldier thought Taliban attacking, court martial told

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CALGARY -- A soldier wounded during a fatal training accident in Afghanistan more than two years ago says he thought his platoon was under attack by the Taliban.

Master Cpl. William Pylypow told a Calgary court martial he was in a direct line behind a Claymore C19 anti-personnel device when it went off on Feb. 12, 2010.

"We always presume it's Taliban, so I thought they got to us," Pylypow said Tuesday.

He was only a metre away from Cpl. Josh Baker, 24, who died when the Claymore, packed with 700 steel balls, raked the Canadian Forces platoon on a range four kilometres north of Kandahar city. Baker was struck four times and one of the steel balls penetrated his chest.

Four other soldiers, including Pylypow, were wounded.

Maj. Darryl Watts, 44, who was in charge of the Kan Kala range the day of the accident, is charged with manslaughter, unlawfully causing bodily harm, breach of duty and negligent performance of duty.

The prosecution alleges Watts allowed his men to practise with the C19 without any proper training and with "wanton, reckless disregard."

Pylypow said he first felt the force of the explosion. "I got hit with the concussion and then two (ball) bearings hit my right arm. I thought I had lost my arm so pretty much went into shock."

Master Bombardier Daniel Scott, who had helped set up one of the C19s the soldiers were practising with that day, was also hit.

"I just thought a rock had hit me in the chest," Scott said.

"It knocked the wind out of me. I tried to walk it off but I couldn't get my breath."

When medics removed his body armour, they discovered his wound. He was later airlifted to hospital at Kandahar Airfield.

Scott doesn't remember getting a safety briefing but doesn't doubt he had received one. "I just followed what the other infantry guys were doing. Personally, I wanted to be in the LAV. I guess a few rocks had been flying back. I just wanted to be safe," Scott said. "We had already had a bit of a dangerous mission.

"I thought something was a bit sketchy."

Cpl. Wolfgang Brettner said the Claymore had been thoroughly checked by the range safety officer, Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale, before the firing.

He said it was facing in the right direction -- toward the enemy -- was securely placed and didn't appear to be damaged.

Brettner was the one responsible for pulling the trigger and testified everything seemed to be fine initially.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 21, 2012 A8

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