Irwin Mitchell’s team of military solicitors won justice for the family of a soldier who lost his life and two others who lost limbs in a horrific series of minefield explosions in Afghanistan.
Corporal Mark Wright, Sergeant Stuart Pearson and Fusilier Andrew Barlow, along with six other men from the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, were investigating radio reports that a fellow paratrooper had been injured by a landmine in the Kajaki Dam region in Helmand Province. They managed to clear a path to Lance Corporal Stuart Hale, who had lost a finger and part of his leg in the blast. But the soldiers soon realised that they were standing in the middle of a minefield.
At Camp Bastion, the commander had a terrible decision to make – he could wait 12 hours until specialist engineers had cleared the area of mines and face Hale bleeding to death, or send in a Chinook that would risk setting off more mines with its downdraft. The soldiers’ pleas for a Black Hawk rescue helicopter, equipped with a winch that would avoid triggering the mines, were lost in NATO bureaucracy. Their commander made the difficult decision to send in the Chinook.
At the Kajaki Dam, Stuart Pearson stumbled across the cleared path and set off another landmine, losing his left leg.
A Chinook then landed, which the soldiers frantically signalled at to take off. Lacking the vital winch equipment of the Black Hawk helicopter, the Chinook’s backdraft set off a third mine. Shrapnel hit Mark Wright in the chest, face, arms and neck.
Medic Lance Corporal Paul Hartley attempted to reach Wright by throwing his bag across the minefield and leaping to where it fell, hoping that it would have triggered any nearby mines. After Hartley had treated his injuries, Wright continued to encourage his comrades and direct the rescue effort.
But another mine exploded when Fusilier Andrew Barlow stumbled while trying to catch a water bottle. Barlow lost a leg and Wright was injured again.
Four hours later
Four hours after the first mine had gone off, two American Black Hawks equipped with winches arrived, carrying the men to a nearby medical Chinook. Mark Wright sadly succumbed to his injuries before they reached the field hospital.
At the inquest into Mark Wright’s death, the coroner gave a damning verdict into the events that led to one man losing his life and three more losing limbs. He blamed the lack of helicopters equipped with suitable winch equipment in Afghanistan, as well as the administrative delays that led to a four hour wait for a Black Hawk helicopter.
We secured a seven-figure settlement for Stuart Pearson, which was approved without the need for trial. £600,000 went towards his state-of-the-art prosthetics. Our team also won compensation for Mark Wright’s family and Andrew Barlow.
After the incident at Kajaki Dam, Stuart made a remarkable recovery with the help of extensive rehabilitation.
Military injury solicitor Geraldine McCool, who attended the Inquest and whose team acted for the soldiers, said: “Mark showed incredible bravery to carry on helping and encouraging his team after suffering such serious injuries, which was recognised by his award of a posthumous George Cross.
“We’re pleased that Stuart made such a good recovery after the incident. Unusually, we secured an agreement for him that will entitle him to further compensation if the injuries to his right leg deteriorate and require an amputation.”
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