Kiwi soldier killed in crash named

The New Zealand soldier killed in a vehicle crash while on a routine patrol in Afghanistan has been named. 

Private Kirifi Mila, also known as Cliff, was standing on the turret of a Humvee, just after midday local time (about 8.40pm Tuesday, NZT) when the vehicle rolled down a 30m cliff, the Defence Force announced this morning.

The accident happened near the village of Ferosak in the northeast of Bamiyan province, about 30km from where Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell was killed last year.

Pvt Mila was born in Western Samoa and joined the army in 2006. He was part of the Second First Battalion based at Burnham.

The Defence Force said he was a popular member of the army who would be sorely missed.

Four soldiers were in the vehicle on a patrol which involved three other Humvees.

As well as the soldier who died, one had serious head injuries, one had broken ribs and was now stable, while the fourth was in shock and recovering.

Missions in Afghanistan often required sending young men and women into harm's way, Major General Richard Rhys Jones said.

"I wish to pay tribute to a fine and brave soldier who died and send condolences to those in his family."

The Defence Force was 100% confident no insurgent activity led to the crash and a full investigation would take place to determine whether the problem was driver error or a road collapse, Maj Gen Jones said.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said roads in that part of Afghanistan were narrow and dangerous and soldiers ran real risks driving there.

"It's a huge shock for the family and they are having to come to terms with this. It is so much more difficult when your loved one is thousands of miles away," Mr Mapp said.

The Defence Force was in the early stages of organising the return of the body to New Zealand. The other injured soldiers will be evacuated to Germany, then repatriated.

Private Mila was the sixth New Zealand-born soldier to die in Afghanistan since the war began.

* In December Private Jack Howard, from Wellington, serving with the British Army, was killed. An investigation is looking into whether his death was caused by United States friendly fire.

* Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment soldier Lieutenant Timothy Andrew O'Donnell, 28, of Feilding, died on August 4 when his three-vehicle patrol was attacked with explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire in northeast Bamiyan. Two comrades were wounded.

* In March 2009, Corporal Mathew Hopkins, 21, of Christchurch, serving in the Australian Army, was shot dead in an intense firefight with Taliban insurgents near the village of Kakarak, 12km north of the Australian base at Tarin Kowt.

* Former Aucklander Sean Patrick McCarthy, 25, a member of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in 2008, and

* Captain Matthew Ferrara, the US-born nephew of Labour Party leader Phil Goff, was killed while serving in the US Army in 2007. He held dual New Zealand and US citizenship.


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