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NZDF unsure if soldier's eye can be saved

12:10 Thu Dec 6 2012
It's not yet clear whether a soldier whose eye was penetrated by a metal fragment in Afghanistan will retain his sight
It's not yet clear whether a soldier whose eye was penetrated by a metal fragment in Afghanistan will retain his sight

It's too early to say whether surgeons will be able to save the vision of a New Zealand soldier hit in the eye by a ricocheting piece of metal during a live firing exercise in Afghanistan.

The unnamed male soldier was practising shooting from a vehicle at a firing range in Bamyan when the object penetrated his protective eyewear and entered his eye on Monday (local time).

The soldier was treated by other members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, before being flown to Bagram Air Base for exploratory surgery.

He has since been flown to Germany for further treatment and stabilisation.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said on Thursday morning that the soldier will require further surgery, but his current condition was not known.

"The surgery that occurred in Afghanistan was stabilising but they required him to be moved to Germany for the more detailed work on the eye," he said.

"At this stage, we can't say what the recovery rate is going to be."

Asked whether surgeons believed the soldier could retain his vision in the injured eye, Lt Gen Jones said it was too early to say, adding "it was a pretty serious penetration".

Lt Gen Jones says the soldier was "practising engaging targets from a vehicle" when he was injured.

"What we assume was a ricochet, a bit of metal, came back through it. The soldier was wearing protective eyewear which is ballistics-proof glasses, but those glasses are more designed to protect against rocks thrown up by a blast, light shrapnel, rather than a bullet," he said.

"We're still investigating as to what did that come from. It must have been pretty sizeable for it to penetrate through those glasses. It wasn't just a normal rock thrown up or fragment thrown up."

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