Special ops soldier dies in fall
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.