Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Today I came face to face with the mine that took my foot.

In my first trip out of Cardiff since the amputation I travelled up to Manchester to meet up with the directors of the Mines Advisory Group, who have asked me to become a patron.

From a glass cabinet, MAG's executive director Lou McGrath picked out a de-activated PMN landmine, similar to the one the technical team found in the ground around Kifri. In a ten day period after my accident 5,000 of them were uncovered around Kirkuk.

It was made of bakelite and was about the size of a tin of travel sweets.

It was a chilling experience to hold the mine in my hands and I found myself becoming unexpectedly upset. Although rendered harmless, to come so close to the device which has wrought such devastation on my life was extremely unsettling.

Lou also explained that Kaveh probably wasn't killed by a Valmara 69 mine, as I'd previously thought. If he had, the mine would probably have taken the rest of us with it, so great is its lethal capacity. Instead, it's thought Kav stepped onto one PMN before falling onto a second. His body took the full force of the blast; he didn't stand a chance.

Many people have said since the accident that I'm "lucky to be alive." It can sound like a rather glib statement as I look down from my wheelchair at my amputated leg. But as I learnt more about the mine that injured me I realised just how accurate those words are. Had I stepped on the mine with my whole foot rather than just the heel the 240 grammes of explosives packed into the PMN would probably have taken my entire leg off -- or worse. The secondary injuries the pieces of bakelite shrapnel were capable of causing don't bear thinking about.

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