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Ex-soldier tried for training fatality

Last of three officers facing court martial

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A military court martial starts at CFB Shilo today for an officer charged in the death of a solider in a training exercise that went horribly wrong three years ago in Afghanistan.

Retired warrant officer Paul Ravensdale faces charges of manslaughter, negligence, breach of duty and unlawfully causing bodily harm.

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In February 2010, Cpl. Joshua Baker, 24, and four soldiers faced a lethal spray from a Claymore mine that exploded on a weapons range near Kandahar City, Afghanistan. Baker died and the four others were injured.

It was a routine training exercise that went wrong and courts martial were held to determine the role played by members in the chain of command that led to it.

Last month, Canadian reservist Maj. Darryl Watts was found not guilty of manslaughter in the death of Baker and the injury of four other soldiers.

That court martial, held in Calgary, was extensively covered. The military jury acquitted Watts of breach of duty. He was found guilty of unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty.

His sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 20. Watts was held responsible for the conduct of the weapons range because he was the platoon commander at the time, the hearing heard.

In September 2012, a third officer, then-Maj. Christopher Lunney, was demoted to the rank of captain and severely reprimanded at the second court martial in the case, held in Gatineau, Que.

Lunney pleaded guilty to negligent performance of a military duty, a Canadian Forces statement on his sentencing said.

Two other charges of negligence and two of breach of duty were withdrawn.

Lunney was the officer commanding the unit at the Kandahar base at the time. He led Stabilization Company A, a sub-unit of the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar, the statement said.

Ravensdale's role in the explosion will be scrutinized during his court martial, which could last as long as a month, said Lori Truscott, public affairs officer for CFB Shilo, where Ravensdale was posted.

He is the only non-commissioned officer of the three to be charged.

The military prosecution argued in the other two courts martial that the death and injuries were preventable. They argued that safety procedures for the exercise were violated that day on the weapons range and as senior officers, Watts and Lunney were responsible for the conduct on the range.

The maximum sentence for unlawfully causing bodily harm is up to 10 years in prison. Negligent performance of duty carries a maximum penalty of dismissal with disgrace from the Canadian military.

Lunney was the first to go before a military trial.

In June 2011, the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service charged Watts and Ravensdale, both of whom served under Lunney.

Finally a year ago, in February 2012, the Canadian military prosecutions director laid formal charges against them.

Baker was an Edmonton native who served with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2013 A6


Updated on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:41 AM CST: Removes first reference to charges against other officers. Capt. Lunney was never charged with manslaughter; incorrect information appeared in a previous version of this story.

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