A British army veteran of Afghanistan has described the circumstances in which he and fellow soldiers were left trapped in a minefield as “digusting.” This incident resulted in multiple casualties and the death of his friend.
Sergeant Stuart Pearson detailed the real-life events that inspired the 2014 movie Kajaki, in which a dozen soldiers became stranded in the minefield near the Kajaki Dam in Helmand Province for four hours. By the time US Blackhawk helicopters lifted them to safety, four mines had exploded, wounding eight soldiers. One, 27-year-old Corporal Mark Wright, died from his injuries. Sgt Pearson, then a corporal with the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, was part of a rescue team along with Corporal Wright.
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They appealed over the radio for a helicopter, equipped with a winch, to lift out the casualty in relative safety, but were informed that none were available. “I took my left foot off a rock and put my foot on the ground and that’s when I heard the explosion. Pearson said “I got blown up and twisted round and landed on my backside. I told nobody to move because that pretty much confirmed we were in the middle of a minefield then. I lifted my left leg to see what damage I’d done and I could see it was gone, about boot height.”
Sgt Pearson said: “Unfortunately, Mark was straddling over me, protecting me from the downblast of the helicopter, he got blasted by that (and sustained) injuries to his face, neck and upper body.” “Although Mark was badly injured, he still kept us in touch with what was going on, what information he was being fed. “We then got told that some Blackhawks were being released by the Americans but they were coming from Kandahar and it would at least an hour before they were coming to get us and I remember just lying there thinking ‘I don’t know if I can hold on for another hour here’.
“I was wanting to fall asleep but Mark wouldn’t let anyone fall asleep, he kept shouting at us.” When US Blackhawk helicopters eventually arrived to winch the casualties to safety, Sgt Pearson said Cpl Wright shouted his last words to him as he was being lifted aboard. He said: “As Mark was getting winched up by the Blackhawks, he shouted down ‘tell my family that I love them’. And I said ‘shut up Mark, this time next week we’ll be back in the pub’.
“I was then placed on the helicopter and I thought ‘Thank Christ that’s over’ and I looked beside me and Mark was lying there and I looked again and paramedics were giving him CPR and then I looked again at him and he was gone.” Looking back, 14 years after his injury and Cpl Wright’s death, he told Sky News: “I would say a lot of these decisions are just made by people in suits in Whitehall that have never fought a battle at all, taken one day and fought an enemy, so I’m quite disgusted by it.”