THE CANADIAN PRESS
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan â€“ A pair of Canadian soldiers returning to establish camp for the night part way through an operation in southern Afghanistan were killed Sunday evening in a vehicle roll-over.
Cpl. Eric Labbe, a 31-year-old Van Doo from Rimouski, Que., and an unidentified comrade died when their light armoured vehicle flipped over on rough terrain around 6:30 p.m. local time in the region of Nalgham, about 40 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.
“They were operating on dirt tracks, so with the rain that we’d had during the past day the terrain was very difficult,” Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche said.
This is the third time Canadian soldiers have died as a result of a light armoured vehicle roll-over. Cpl. Paul Davis and Master Cpl. Timothy Wilson died in March 2006 when their armoured vehicle ran off the road while Pte. Braun Woodfield was killed in a similar roll-over in Nov. 2005.
An Access to Information request filed by the CBC two years ago found the army had been warned in May 2004 that LAV III rollovers were often caused by “speed and driver inexperience.”
The two-page briefing memo prepared for military leaders suggested the armoured vehicle is limited in the type of terrain it can handle.
Laroche, however, expressed confidence in the vehicle despite the criticism.
“It’s a very good vehicle and there’s not an issue with the vehicle as such,” he said.
“Things happen with these kinds of vehicles from time to time and you will understand when a vehicle like that, 20 tonnes, rolls over and you’re ejected from the vehicle and you are under the vehicle, you can be killed.”
Laroche said the soldiers were involved in a multiday operation in the volatile Zhari district of Kandahar province at the time.
Meant to disrupt insurgent activity in the area, Operation Steadfast Decision is expected to continue, despite the accident.
“This unfortunate incident was not, however, the result of enemy action,” Laroche said.
“An investigation is underway to determine the exact circumstances of the incident.”
Laroche said there were four people in the vehicle at the time of the accident and the two who died were sitting in the turret.
“We’re saddened by this tragic loss. They will be missed and we will honour their sacrifice to the service of Canada and their contribution to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan,” he said after next-of-kin had been notified.
“On behalf of all the members of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, I would like to convey my most sincere sympathies to the families of our lost comrades.”
The lastest fatalities bring the number of combat deaths in Afghanistan to 76. The majority of those deaths were the result of improvised explosive devices.
Gunner Jonathan Dion, 27, was killed just a week ago as a result of an IED attack in Zhari district.