Suffolk/Shotley: Royal Anglian soldier Craig Lucas left partially deaf after training exercise went wrong
A YOUNG soldier from Suffolk who was left partially deaf after a training exercise went wrong has called for answers from the Army.
Private Craig Lucas was serving with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Afghanistan earlier this year when he was injured in an explosion.
He was left without any hearing in his left ear and only 50% hearing in his right ear. He is in the process of being medically discharged from the Army and is living at home in Shotley.
The 23-year-old now faces an uncertain future and says the Army has made little effort to help him retrain for another vocation, which it promises to do for injured servicemen, and that he has found it very difficult to make any progress with his insurance claim.
The Light Machine Gunner was injured less than three months into his first tour of duty as he prepared for an operation on May 22.
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He said: “We were in FOB [Forward Operating Base] Kalang and we were just about getting ready to go out on a major operation in the early hours.
“We were doing a huge-scale kit check to make sure we had all the ammunition and working parts to do the operation in hand.
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“That kit check was carried out on the HLS [Helicopter Landing Site] and whilst we were doing the kit check we ran through a couple of pyrotechnics we would be taking out there. We were going to take claymores [anti-personnel mines] out with us and we were running through a claymore lesson.
“They are triggered by a detonator that goes inside the claymore and the detonator explodes, setting it off.
“Luckily the claymore didn’t go off, otherwise I believe it would have been a fatality – but the detonator that fits inside went off scarily close to the claymore.
“We were very lucky that day, but it went off so close to people and we did take some injuries.
“I came away with some significant hearing loss and a couple of others had shrapnel wounds because we were so close to it and we were not expecting it to happen.”
He said: “At the time of the explosion there was a big white flash in front of my eyes and all I could hear was loud high-pitched ringing.
“My vision came back quite quickly and I was looking around and people were running around.
“I couldn’t hear any footsteps or voices and just the loud ringing. I went through the drills I have been taught to do with explosions, patting my body because sometimes even if you have got an injury you can’t feel it.
“I didn’t really move from that space for about a minute and slowly my right ear came back and I turned around and tried to help my friends.
“We got rushed to the medical centre and they called a Black Hawk [helicopter] and that flew us straight into Bastion and we got an ambulance straight into the hospital.
“I can’t fault that whatsoever and that was all really speedy.
“They checked my ears out and found a fair bit of blood in the canal of my left ear and it turns out I had to get sent back to the UK to get assessed further.”
Pte Lucas was diagnosed with a significant trauma and the nerve that connects his left ear to his brain was badly damaged.
He added he had felt disappointed with the Army’s response and felt someone from a high rank should have spoken to him and outlined what the next steps should be.
Instead, he felt he had been left to deal with the aftermath of the incident by himself.
“There were five people injured – four of us got sent back to Bastion and out of the four of us, three got sent back to the UK.”
Pte Lucas pointed out there were drill claymores that were totally unarmed which he thought could have been properly used for training purposes – but he said instead they had been using a ready-to-go live claymore when the incident happened.
“This has changed my life for the worse,” he said.
He is hoping to hear a response from the Army’s investigation soon.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the investigation was still ongoing, so it would be “inappropriate” for them to comment at this stage.
The spokesman said: “No claim has been brought against the MoD by Private Lucas, but should one be brought it will be thoroughly investigated, and if appropriate, compensation may be paid.
“All personnel medically discharged are entitled to the full resettlement package which includes support for training, finding a job, life skills and further education.”