Monday, November 23, 2009

Pictured: The scars that show how miracle soldier escaped sniper's bullet that passed through his helmet and back

A British soldier serving in Afghanistan has told how he cheated death when a sniper's bullet passed through his back, neck and helmet - but miraculously avoided all his vital organs.

Lieutenant Paddy Rice was described as 'the luckiest soldier in Afghanistan' after he was passed as fit to return to active duty only two weeks after being shot in Helmand province.

Lt Rice, of 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, was kneeling on the roof of a British compound in the Chah-e'Anjir area of central Helmand when a Taliban sniper opened fire on him.

Lt Rice went back to his duties just two weeks after a bullet entered his back whilst leaning over a radio, skimmed along under the skin above his spinal cord, exited just below his skull finally penetrating and exiting his helmet

The 25-year-old officer said: 'I climbed on to the roof of Compound 23, where my soldiers and I were based, and was trying to move a radio into a sangar (a defensive bunker).

'It was an exposed position so I was wearing my body armour and helmet.

'Then I felt a thump in the back, as though I had been kicked, and I knew immediately I had been shot.'

Lt Rice's hunched kneeling position meant that the bullet, after entering his body, tracked along his back, into his neck, before blasting out through his helmet.

Stitch marks on his body clearly show how the round travelled upwards, alongside his spine, before coming out just below his left ear.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: 'I put my hand up to the back of my head and I could see blood and I think I said something to my platoon sergeant, Gert Botha, such as "I've been shot".

Lt Paddy Rice of 1 Grenadier Guards miraculously avoided death after a bullet narrowly missed his spinal cord and skull

'I was helped down from the roof and I radioed company headquarters, gave a contact report and said, "There is one casualty and it's me - I've been shot".

'I wasn't panicking. I had considered how I might react if I was shot or injured but because everything seemed to be functioning normally I think I realised I would be OK.'

He said he phoned his girlfriend in Clapham, South London, who was shopping at the supermarket.

'She was a bit startled to hear me saying I had been shot while she was buying her supper, but after I assured her that I was fine she relaxed a bit.'

After the attack on October 26, Lt Rice was flown to Camp Bastion where he received 29 stitches.

He was described as the luckiest soldier in Afghanistan by Captain James Swanston, who was in charge of the operations room when the attack happened.

The captain said if the bullet had hit a millimetre either side of where it did, Lt Rice would be either dead or seriously injured.

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