15 Dec 2012

NZDF says evacuation was due to misunderstanding

9:59 pm on 15 December 2012

The Defence Force says the decision to evacuate two wounded soldiers from Afghanistan on a plane without full medical facilities was based on a misunderstanding by United States medics.

Private Allister Baker and Corporal Matthew Ball were injured in the ambush that killed Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell in Bamyan province in August 2010.

The New Zealand Herald reports it was decided to fly them back to New Zealand on one plane because it was cheaper and made for good public relations, but this may have compromised medical care.

However, a Defence Force spokesperson says a Court of Inquiry into the death of Lieutenant O'Donnell 16 months ago found that returning the dead and wounded to their families as quickly as possible was the over-riding imperative.

The spokesperson says United States medical officials who assessed the wounded as fit to travel mistakenly thought the B757 was fully equipped for medical care.