Spe­cial ops soldier dies in fall

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - PHILLIPA YALDEN

A mem­ber of the De­fence Force Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Force has died dur­ing a coun­tert­er­ror­ism train­ing ex­er­cise in the waters off the tip of the Coro­man­del Penin­sula.

It’s un­der­stood the spe­cial ops of­fi­cer fell about five me­tres and broke his neck dur­ing the op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing a con­tainer ship near Chan­nel Is­land in the Hau­raki Gulf early yes­ter­day.

A wit­ness de­scribed see­ing three mil­i­tary-grade in­flat­able boats full of black-clad mil­i­tary per­son­nel car­ry­ing as­sault ri­fles land on the shores of Port Jack­son, at the tip of the penin­sula, as dawn broke.

‘‘We got wo­ken up when three in­flat­able RIBs came on­shore, they came hurtling in,’’ the man, who did not wish to be named, said.

‘‘We thought at first it was an ex­er­cise as they were work­ing on some­one on the shore – they were let­ting off flares and smoke and ev­ery­thing.

‘‘It was quite scary as they were all dressed in black and car­ry­ing as­sault ri­fles.’’

About 20 per­son­nel wear­ing black mil­i­tary is­sue gear jumped out, bring­ing the in­jured of­fi­cer ashore.

They be­gan ro­tat­ing CPR on the man on the beach.

‘‘There was a whole stack of them. They would do a cou­ple of min­utes of chest com­pres­sions then the next lot would take over,’’ the wit­ness said.

‘‘They just kept go­ing and go­ing and go­ing.

‘‘The next thing the he­li­copter came in ... it was the res­cue he­li­copter and I thought, oh s***.’’

The he­li­copter dropped paramedics onto the beach be­fore go­ing on to land at the camp­ground.

St John am­bu­lance staff also re­sponded, bring­ing a lo­cal doc­tor from Colville.

Paramedics con­tin­ued work­ing on the man with a de­fib­ril­la­tor for about an hour, the wit­ness said.

‘‘I be­lieve, from all ac­counts, they were on an ex­er­cise on a con­tainer boat out by Chan­nel Is­land.

‘‘We be­lieve he fell some­thing like five me­tres, and he’d bro­ken his neck, so there wasn’t much chance.’’

The con­tainer ship was not vis­i­ble from the Port Jack­son beach, the wit­ness said, but there had been a cou­ple of con­tainer ves­sels pass­ing through the chan­nel ear­lier.

‘‘[The sol­diers] were all dressed in black. It was def­i­nitely De­fence Force as they had short as­sault ri­fles strapped to them and they were all done up in black with vests. ‘‘It was quite scary.’’ He said the per­son­nel seemed shaken and upset.

Af­ter about an hour and a half, the am­bu­lance and he­li­copter left the scene, fol­lowed by the RIBs which headed south.

‘‘It was rea­son­ably rough when they left. The RIBs were get­ting pounded by the surf,’’ the wit­ness said.

The New Zealand De­fence Force con­firmed the man’s death.

‘‘The next of kin have been in­formed, and a fam­ily li­ai­son of­fi­cer has been as­signed,’’ an NZDF spokesper­son con­firmed.

‘‘Our thoughts are with the soldier’s fam­ily and friends, and the NZDF re­quests that their pri­vacy is re­spected at this dif­fi­cult time.’’

When Stuff made in­quiries about the in­ci­dent, all queries were first re­ferred to St John, who then re­ferred all queries to po­lice.

A po­lice spokesper­son con­firmed po­lice had been ad­vised of an in­ci­dent on a ves­sel in that area at 6.30am.

Mar­itime New Zealand con­firmed a bea­con alert went off on a ves­sel in that area but said St John re­sponded to the in­ci­dent, and di­rected all in­quiries to them.

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