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Military staff rack up raft of injuries

SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 12/01/2013

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An airman who copped a dodgeball in his privates was just one of almost 2000 Defence Force personnel injured last year.

Air force, navy and army members were involved in 1803 incidents and close calls from January 2012 till October 2012, from minor and bizarre mishaps to serious combat injuries and deaths.

While many of the incidents took place on the sports field, others included a soldier whose face was singed in a gas explosion, an airman whose fingers got caught in a hedge cutter, and two sailors slicing off the tips of their fingers.

The information, released to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act, also reveals a sailor was seriously injured when assaulted in Hawaii.

The sailor was "assaulted whilst ashore in Honolulu", the Defence Force accident rap sheet reveals, before being "seen at US military hospital and diagnosed with [a] left hip fracture".

Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Vicky Rendall said the incident happened during Operation Rimpac.

The navy was in Hawaii for the world's largest naval training operation but was refused entry to Pearl Harbour. Hawaiian newspapers at the time reported New Zealand sailors flooded the commercial area, where nine proposed to one waitress at Bikini Cantina and Hooters received a 25 per cent lift in custom.

Another sailor was assaulted by four people in Auckland; one was punched in the face during a navy rugby match; and a soldier was assaulted in Samoa.

There were also at least 11 people injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2012, the data reveals.

The accidents ranged from air force personnel rolling a utility and riding a motocross bike into a tree, to four soldiers suffering injuries in a "head-on collision on a blind corner" involving two military vehicles from the 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

Six personnel died in 2012.

Five soldiers were killed in action in Afghanistan and a sailor died during shore leave in the Cook Islands.

Recorded near-misses included the letter "S" from the "Defence House" sign falling off the Wellington building on to the pavement in Mulgrave St, an overflow of raw sewage on to the deck of the frigate Te Kaha, and a "bird scaring" gunshot incident at the air force's Whenuapai base.

The Defence Force was unable to comment on any incidents because too many of its senior officials were on holiday, a spokeswoman said.

A Defence Force spokesman, Squadron Leader Tawhiao Coromandel, would not respond to repeated requests yesterday about whether 2012 was considered a particularly bad year for the Defence Force.

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He was unable to reveal when, before 2012, as many as six personnel had died in a single year, saying such information would take too much time to research.

An ACC spokeswoman said the Defence Force was an accredited employer, meaning it investigated its own injury claims.

WEIRD AND PAINFUL INJURIES

- Seaman catches thumb in motorcycle chain.

- Air force member chips tooth during "character building activity".

- Soldier accidentally shoots himself in the leg at training camp.

- High pressure oxygen hose bursts, igniting fireball that burns a sailor's face, head and neck.

- Airman playing dodgeball "hit in scrotum by ball".

- Airman falls through window, injuring shoulder and chest.

- Soldier struck in eye by an expended bullet cartridge during training.

- Bayonet slices through finger as a gun is returned to rack.

MILITARY DEATHS

June 2012: Able seaman combat specialist William Paratini Delamere, 22, dies after a motor scooter crash near where his ship Otago was docked in Rarotonga.

August: Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer, 26, and Lance Corporal Rory Malone, 26, killed in fire fight in Bamiyan province after their armoured vehicle is attacked. Six other New Zealand soldiers hurt. The Taleban reportedly claims responsibility for the deaths. Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, medic Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21, killed when their Humvee is hit by a roadside bomb in Bamiyan province.

- The Dominion Post

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