6 Aug 2010

Repatriation of killed NZ soldier underway

10:12 pm on 6 August 2010

The repatriation has begun of a New Zealand soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

A coalition forces plane carrying the body of Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell and wounded comrades Lance Corporal Matthew Ball and Private Allister Baker was cleared on Friday to travel from Bagram air base near the capital Kabul.

The soldiers were part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team and were attacked by insurgents in Bamyan province on Tuesday. An Afghan interpreter sustained minor injuries.

The Defence Force says the injured soldiers and Lieutenant O'Donnell's body will be flown to Dubai where an RNZAF plane is waiting with a medical team on board to return them to New Zealand.

Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell says he expects the plane to arrive at Whenuapai air base on Saturday afternoon.

The family of Lance Corporal Ball says he is to be treated in an Auckland hospital burns unit.

Steven Ball says none of the family has been able to talk to his brother directly, but they have heard from army comrades who have visited him that he is in good spirits.

A post-mortem will be carried out before Lieutenant O'Donnell's body is taken to Feilding for a funeral ceremony next week.

The Defence Force says it has received an outpouring of condolences and support from the public and the messages will be collected and sent to the soldiers' families.

It has also set up an online form on its website for members of the public who want to send a message.