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New Zealand soldier dies in Timor

14 March 2001 Media Statement

New Zealand soldier dies in Timor

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Defence Minister Mark Burton said tonight they were very sorry to learn that a New Zealand soldier had died while apparently swimming in the sea near Dili, East Timor.

The New Zealand Army has confirmed that the body of Private Boyd Reagan Henare Atkins was recovered this evening near the wharf at Hera, 10 kilometres east of Dili. He had been on a four-day leave pass at the Hera leave centre.

"Our immediate thoughts are with the family of Private Atkins, who was 19 years old and joined the Army in September 1999," Helen Clark and Mark Burton said.

"The government extends its deepest sympathy to Private Atkins' family.

"What makes the news more distressing is that it comes a day after Army Major John McNutt was tragically killed while observing a training exercise in Kuwait.

"It will add to what has already been a difficult week for the New Zealand Defence Force.

"Private Atkins' death brings to four the number of New Zealand servicemen who have died in East Timor since we committed troops to the international peacekeeping force in 1999.

"Last month New Zealand Air Force Squadron Leader Murray Neilson was killed while piloting a A4-K Skyhawk in Australia.

"As stated after the Kuwaiti tragedy, these incidents remind us that the deployment of New Zealand defence personnel overseas in what is often hazardous and unfamiliar territory is never without risk," Helen Clark and Mark Burton said.


ENDS

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