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Soldier's death in Afghan crash avoidable

12:41 Thu Apr 5 2012
Private Kirifi Mila (supplied)
Private Kirifi Mila (supplied)

A New Zealand soldier killed in an armoured vehicle crash in Afghanistan may have survived if he had been wearing a safety harness and been trained in roll-overs, which the crew knew little about, an army inquiry has found.

Private Kirifi Mila, 27, was last year a gunner standing on the turret of a US-made Humvee, when it rolled down a 30-metre cliff, crushing him.

The accident happened during a routine New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZPRT) patrol in the North East of Bamyan province.

In its findings released on Thursday, a court of inquiry found the soldiers were "predominantly unaware" of roll-over procedures in the Humvee operators manual and had then been carried out "it is likely that Private Mila would not have been killed".

More than 100 US soldiers were killed in Humvee rollover accidents in three years in Iraq and the US military started using a training programme using rollover simulators in 2006.

The court also said the NZPRT had not used gunner's harness - designed to stop them from being thrown out - for some time and crew were not really aware of them.

The court also found none of the crew were wearing seatbelts, which would have drastically reduced the number of injuries.

The court made a number of recommendations and New Zealand's Afghan head, Major General Dave Gawn, said changes had been made.

All soldiers were now trained in roll-overs and Humvee gunner harnesses were now being used.

However, the army has stopped short of ordering seatbelts to be worn at all times.

There was a fine balance between travelling safely and being able to get out of a vehicle quickly when it was attacked, Maj Gen Gawn said.

Seatbelts were now worn as a matter of routine, but would not be if the soldiers thought they might come under fire.