17 Feb 2011

Body of NZ soldier begins journey home

2:47 pm on 17 February 2011

The body of the New Zealand soldier who died when a Humvee rolled down a cliff in Afghanistan has begun its journey home after a farewell ceremony at his base in Bamyan.

Private Kirifi Mila, 27, became trapped underneath the vehicle when it crashed in Bamyan province on Tuesday. Two other soldiers were seriously injured.

During the ceremony in Bamyan, commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Fox said while any death can seem a waste, there is comfort in the way Private Mila died - on patrol, behind his gun, providing for his mates.


After the ceremony, Private Mila was taken to Bagram Air Force Base in a Chinook helicopter before being transferred to Germany where his body will go through a coronial process.

Defence Force Joint Forces Commander Air Vice Marshal Peter Stockwell earlier told Morning Report it could be several days before the body of Private Mila arrives back in New Zealand.

Air Vice Marshal Stockwell says the condition of the soldier with the most serious injuries, including a broken eye socket and an open head injury, has improved but he is in a lot of pain.

The second soldier, who has broken ribs, is reasonably comfortable considering his injuries.

Both will be moved to a hospital in Germany within the next 24 hours.

A third less seriously injured soldier remains in Bamyan.

Investigations into cause

Air Vice Marshal Stockwell told Morning Report the accident may have been caused by ice and snow on the road.

He says there has been no indication that there was a vehicle fault or that the road gave way, although that is not being ruled out.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says a court of inquiry into the accident will identify any lessons that need to be learnt.

He says the question of changes to driver training before deployment has been discussed but the inquiry must first identify what happened.

Dr Mapp says arrangements for Private Mila's funeral are still being discussed with his family.