British soldiers sue after US tank caused needless accident

Soldiers' anger over Iraq crash

Clockwise from bottom left: Cpl Smith, Cpl McLaughlan, Staff Sgt Rogerson, crash scene
The three soldiers are suing
the US army for £1.2m
Three British soldiers, seriously hurt after claiming a US tank convoy ran them off a road in Iraq, have spoken for the first time about the incident.

Cpl Jane McLaughlan, Staff Sgt James Rogerson and Cpl Stephen Smith, were left with horrific injuries when their Land Rover crashed in May 2003.

They are suing the US Army for £1.2m in the first action of its kind involving coalition allies in the Iraq war.

The trio say they have been let down by US allies in the war-torn country.

The US Army claims no record of the incident, despite a British report naming the US unit and driver involved.

Hartlepool law firm Tilly, Bailey and Irvine has joined forces with a US personal injury specialist to fight the case.

BBC News has been given access to witness and medical evidence, which it is hoped will go before a US court.

Driver, Cpl McLaughlan, 33, from Hartlepool, says she suffered personality changes following multiple skull fractures received in the crash and tortuous rehabilitation.

She and the others have been reassigned to non-combat roles in Europe.

She said: "When I saw myself I thought 'what the hell has someone done to me'? I was very thin and I couldn't eat or drink anything. I can still only eat on one side of my mouth because I can't taste anything.

"I feel different. The slightest little thing gets to me more than they ever did. I find I snap at people and tell them what I feel, whereas I would never have done that before.

"I shout a lot at my husband, I take things out on him more. That's not very nice because he gets it more than anyone.

"It was tough on the marriage. Rob has a career and he had to get back to work. But I found it difficult that he was going on exercises and I was left at home.

This is a unique case and so far the Americans have made no effort to look at this properly, or even look at the information we have given them

"This has slowed me down a lot. It's ruined my career."

Staff Sgt Rogerson, from Scotland, who was in command of the group, said: "I don't think I'm up to it anymore since the accident. I can't carry heavy weights like gun belts and combat vests and weaponry.

"At the moment I don't have an operational role. I was very fit before the accident and wanted to do bodyguard work after the army. But now I'm having to rethink my plans.

"It's put my career back and put me back mentally. I've lost two years of my life."

Cpl Smith said: "I'd just like to find out whether it was deliberate or was an accident."

Solicitor Steve Horsely of Tilly, Bailey and Irvine, which is funding the legal action, criticised the US Army for "stonewalling" over the case.

He said: "This is a unique case and so far the Americans have made no effort to look at this properly, or even look at the information we have given them.

Computer-generated image of crash
A simulated reconstruction
of the crash has been created

"We are not going to walk away from this. These guys will never be the same again.

"The main claim of the Americans is that they have no record of the incident. But do they think the British just made up the name of a tank driver and the name of the regiment carrying the tank?

"This convoy must have been going from somewhere, to somewhere."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "Clearly, the Service Police Traffic Accident Report made at the time is an official document and, if submitted in evidence, would speak for itself."

Lt Col Steven Boylan, director of the US Army's combined press information centre in Baghdad, told BBC News: "We have no record of this event happening.

"It was a long time ago and there is no-one here now who was there at that time.

"In any event, we do not comment on ongoing cases which are the subject of litigation."

By Phil Mawson BBC News

No comments: