Military confirms Canadian airman died in crash
Published Thursday, May 31, 2007 7:44PM EDT
The military has released the name of a Canadian airman killed in a helicopter crash Wednesday in Afghanistan that left a total of seven troops dead.
Master Cpl. Darrell Jason Priede was a military photographer from CFB Gagetown, said Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant during a news conference at Kandahar Airfield Thursday.
"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of this wonderful young Canadian. In working to bring peace to this troubled country he has paid the ultimate price," Grant said.
"There is no way to comfort those who grieve at this terrible time, however, we should all remember that Darrell was involved in a good thing, a good fight, and we should be proud of what he has done."
Priede was a passenger in the U.S. CH-47 Chinook helicopter when it went down in Helmand province, one of the most volatile regions of the country.
The 30-year-old combat cameraman, originally from the Grand Forks area, had served in Afghanistan for just over a month.
His mother, Roxanne Priede, said her son wanted to show the good work Canada is doing in the violence-wracked country.
"He really wanted to do something that would show more of what the military stood for," Priede told The Canadian Press from her home in Grand Forks, B.C.
"When he called us and told us he had actually applied to go over to Afghanistan, he said he wanted to bring home the news of good stuff that was going on over there -- the good things Canadians were doing over there."
The prime minister also extended his sympathies to the Priede family and said the work airmen and soldiers like him are doing in the country is of great importance.
"The progress achieved in Afghanistan would not have been possible without men and women like Master Corporal Priede who put themselves on the line everyday," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.
"We will not forget Master Corporal Priede's selfless contribution on behalf of Canada."
Priede, who had married a few years ago, entered the military as a gunner in 1996 and later served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia.
It was on his second tour in the Balkans that he applied to become a combat cameraman.
Lieut. Desmond James, stationed at the Provincial Reconstruction Team base outside Kandahar city, described Priede as a professional who loved his job.
The two worked together when Priede documented the work of the various reconstructions missions carried out from the camp.
"He went out, got to know people, I think he made a really good impression. He'll be missed that's for sure," James told CTV News.
Photos that Priede had recently snapped were to be hung in the PRT mess hall on Thursday night.
In addition to Priede, five American crew members of the helicopter were killed, along with a British military passenger.
Troops have secured the wreckage of the helicopter and are investigating the cause of the crash.
Purported Taliban spokesperson Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Taliban militants shot down the helicopter, but the claim has not been independently verified.
Initial reports have suggested that the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force on Thursday, said "there will be a full investigation."
"We will try to determine everything that happened and to fully investigate the site."
The helicopter went down at about 9 p.m. local time Wednesday, NATO officials said.
A rescue team arriving at the scene was then ambushed by insurgents and had to call in air support to ward off the attackers. One Afghan civilian was injured by gunfire.
Grant declined to comment on the operation Priede was involved in because the campaign is still underway.
He said fighting in Helmand province has been heavy in recent weeks, and troops are working to clear out opposition fighters so that refurbishment of the Kajaki hydroelectric dam, a major development project in the area of the crash, can go ahead.
"They are certainly showing now, particularly in the Helmand River valley, that they are trying to make a last stand in this area," Grant said.
"At the end of the day, though, they are not being successful. They are being pushed back, they are being defeated by the ISAF forces on the ground."
In recent months, violence has centred around the Kajaki Dam area, with U.S. and British forces fighting insurgents targeting the project.
CTV's Steve Chao, reporting from Kandahar, said the dam project is a centrepiece in redevelopment efforts in the country.
"This is one major project that NATO is hoping will win the hearts and minds down here by providing some stable electricity," Chao told CTV Newsnet.
The Chinook has two rotors and is mainly used for transport. It can fit about 40 soldiers in addition to a small crew.
Eight U.S. personnel died last February when their Chinook crashed in the southern province of Zabul, but the incident was not the result of a militant attack.
Another 10 U.S. soldiers died in a Chinook crash in May 2006, after an attempted nighttime landing.
But a 2005 U.S. helicopter crash, which killed 16 Americans, is believed to have been caused by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by militants.
In total, 56 Canadian military personnel have now been killed in Afghanistan.