Soldier told investigators he did nothing wrong in training that turned deadly
Paul Ravensdale has pleaded not guilty to six charges at a court martial in Shilo, Man.
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 12:51PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2013 2:20PM EST
SHILO, Man. -- Three days after leading a training exercise that went horribly wrong and killed a fellow soldier, warrant officer Paul Ravensdale told a military investigator he had no idea what caused the accident.
"All hell broke loose and I honestly don't know what happened," Ravensdale is heard saying in the recorded interview, played Tuesday at his court martial at CFB Shilo in Manitoba.
"I honestly felt I did everything right."
Ravensdale, who is now retired, faces six charges -- including manslaughter and unlawfully causing bodily harm -- stemming from an incident on a weapons range in Afghanistan on Feb. 12, 2010.
Soldiers were testing anti-personnel land mines, C-19s, that were new to the mission. When the landmines are detonated during tests, soldiers are supposed to be far behind or sheltered in dugouts or inside vehicles, prosecutors have said.
Ravensdale is accused of ignoring those rules by letting soldiers stand near the weapons without any cover.
The first set of mines were set off without any trouble. During the second firing, some of the 700 small steel balls packed inside one mine shot backward instead of forward.
Four balls struck Cpl. Josh Baker, including one in the chest that killed him. Four others suffered puncture wounds -- one had an injured kidney.
Ravensdale told the investigator he had given a safety briefing on the range in which he told the others to stand well back of the weapon and behind light armoured vehicles, or LAVs. He gave the order to set off the weapon and the soldier charged with the detonation did so.
The force of the explosion surprised him, he told the investigator.
"It sounded a hell of a lot bigger than it should have been."
The prosecutor played a short video of the first firing, which shows two soldiers beside -- not behind -- a LAV and in direct sight of the land mine.
The video was shot by Master Cpl. Scott Lawrence, a medic who testified he only had "his armour and the camera" between himself and the landmine.
Under cross-examination by Ravensdale's lawyer, Lawrence admitted he felt safe where he was standing.
"I did feel I was not in danger at that point," Lawrence said. "I felt fairly safe, with the armour I was wearing."
Lawrence tended to the wounded after the accident and recalled performing CPR on Baker, who was medevaced by helicopter with the other injured soldiers.
Ravensdale would later tell the investigator he was puzzled as to how he managed to escape injury while others were hit.
"I honestly don't know why I didn't get hit."
Two other soldiers have already been convicted in the accident.
Maj. Christopher Lunney has been demoted to captain and given a severe reprimand after pleading guilty to negligent performance of duty in the incident.
Maj. Darryl Watts is awaiting sentencing on charges of negligence and unlawfully causing bodily harm.
Ravensdale's court martial is expected to last three weeks.
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