Soldier's death blamed on helicopter setting off mine
A SCOTTISH solider was killed in Afghanistan by a landmine blast which was set off by the downdraft from a RAF helicopter, it was claimed last night.
Corporal Mark Wright, 27, from Edinburgh, died earlier this month after his 3 Para patrol became stranded in a minefield.
Following the incident, his commanding officer said that Cpl Wright had died while trying to save the life of a comrade who had been injured. But it was reported last night that the downdraft from a twin-rotor Chinook sent to rescue the men caused at least two explosions.
The Ministry of Defence said there was "no evidence" to support the allegations. However, it is understood that an inquiry is already under way into the circumstances surrounding Cpl Wright's death - as is routine in such cases.
It was claimed that Cpl Wright had specified that a smaller helicopter should be sent when he radioed for help.
A member of the patrol was quoted as telling comrades: "Mark radioed the ops room, but specified they must not send in a Chinook. Their downdraft is massive and anyone with any RAF experience knows they would be liable to set off mines as they hover."
The patrol member said that the Chinook was forced to leave empty after setting off at least two mines. The patrol was eventually rescued by a smaller US Army Blackhawk helicopter, but Cpl Wright died of his injuries on the aircraft.
Five of his colleagues were also injured - three losing legs during the incident at Kajaki in Helmand province. Officials with the Ministry of Defence insisted that there was nothing to support the unnamed soldier's claims.
A spokesman said: "We have no evidence to support these allegations. It is regrettable when soldiers take their view of an incident - especially one involving a death - to the media rather than their own chain of command."
Cpl Wright, from the Craigmillar area of the capital, had spent about seven years in the military. He had been due to marry long-term partner Gillian Urquhart later this year.
Cpl Wright served three tours in Northern Ireland before being posted to Iraq in 2003. He went to Afghanistan in May this year as a mortar fire controller with 3 Para.
After his death, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal, his commanding officer, described Cpl Wright as an outstanding soldier who had a "very bright future" ahead of him. He added: "Cpl Wright died attempting to save the life of a fellow paratrooper who had been injured in a mine incident. He did so in complete disregard for his own safety while fully aware of the dangers to himself."
His parents, Bobby and Gemma, later said that their son "was fully aware of the risks and he accepted them".
The latest controversy follows the disclosure of e-mails from a major in the Paras complaining that the RAF in Afghanistan had been "utterly, utterly useless".
There have been complaints of a lack of helicopters and close air support.
Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, has also conceded that overcoming the Taleban resistance has proved harder than expected.
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