Afghanistan: Rifleman Denver Fedee Tells Inquest He ‘Thought He Would Die’ During Friendly-Fire Tragedy
PA/The Huffington Post UK
A rifleman told an inquest on Thursday how he thought he was going to die in a tragic friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan in 2009.
Rifleman Denver Fedee, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, recalled to an inquest the moment an American Apache attack helicopter strafed a British patrol base, killing Lance Corporal Christopher Roney.
The incident occurred as British troops inside Patrol Base Almas, in Sangin, Helmand province, were exchanging with Taliban fighters.
As night fell, air support had been called in by the British soldiers, but the two Apache helicopters attacked the base, despite the flagpole, machine guns, battlements and soldiers in uniform.
Rifleman Fedee told the inquest at Sunderland Civic Center: “I saw red splashes of explosion. I had never seen it before and I was wondering what was happening. When it started a second time you could feel the sandbags bursting.”
After being hit in the hand and arm, Fedee was joined by another soldier, saying that by that point “we were scared. [I thought] ‘That’s when you are going to die’.”
Later, despite his injured arm, he helped stretcher some of the seven badly injured men.
Rifleman Alex Swinhoe, then 18, who was shooting from a rooftop, lost a leg in the Apache attack.
He told the hearing: “It came out of nowhere. I fell off the roof and onto the floor. I seemed all right. I couldn’t feel anything, I just thought something must be wrong.”
It was only when he was receiving treatment in Birmingham that he was told that the devastating fire came from a US helicopter.
“Some of the guys on R and R came to see us and told us it was an Apache helicopter,” he said.
The Sunderland soldier, who has a prosthetic leg, is no longer with the Rifles and has transferred to a rehabilitation unit.
A statement was read out from Corporal Lee Brownson, who died in an IED explosion a month later.
He was posthumously awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his bravery in rescuing two men in the aftermath of the Taliban bomb on Almas.
His statement said he realised Apaches were attacking the base while it was going on as he had heard them before, and that it was a friendly fire incident.
Cpl Brownson heard shouts of “Man down” and attended to L/Cpl Roney, who had been manning a corner of the base, known as a sanger.
“When I got inside the first thing I recall is an awful gurgling noise,” he said. “He was not moving at all.”
Cpl Emma Henderson, the platoon medic, said L/Cpl Roney was unrecognisable when he was brought in for treatment.
“I talked to Chris throughout everything I did, I knew he could still hear even though he was unresponsive. He knew he was not alone and he was receiving the treatment that was required.”
She stayed by his side until a specialist helicopter arrived to fly him to Camp Bastion where he died the next day.