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UN Flag Half Mast As Soldier Begins Journey Home

For immediate release

UN FLAG HALF MAST AS SOLDIER BEGINS JOURNEY HOME

The United Nations flag will fly at half mast again today as New Zealand soldier Private (Pte) Boyd Atkins, who died while on leave in East Timor, begins his journey home. The nineteen year old infantry soldier was on leave at the Hera leave centre and is presumed to have drowned.

Escorted by members of the Third Battalion Group, Pte Atkins will leave Dili at 4:30pm this afternoon (NZT) on a United Nations Hercules bound for Darwin. He will leave Darwin on Monday 19 March and will arrive in Auckland later that day.

On Tuesday 20 March Pte Atkins will travel to Gisborne by RNZAF Hercules, where he will be met by whanau and members of 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. His tangi is likely to be held on Thursday 22 March. The tangi will be at Te Rawhiora Marae, Tolaga Bay with full military honours.

In Dili at 4:30pm (NZT) Pte Atkins was farewelled by the UN Peacekeeping Force Commander Lieutenant General Boonsrang Niumpradit and New Zealand Senior National Officer Brigadier Lou Gardiner. During the brief ceremony Brig Gardiner paid tribute to Private Atkins.

“Your early death has robbed your whanau, robbed your mates of a good friend and team mate, robbed the New Zealand contingent of a fellow soldier and robbed UNTAET of a peacekeeper.

“You have spent four months of a very short life as part of a force trying to restore peace to a country which has suffered so much during the last 25 years and particularly over the last two years. You and your New Zealand team mates have made a difference during your service in East Timor. Your life may not have been long but you have made the lives of others more bearable by your unselfish service in East Timor.

“Farewell fellow peacekeeper, have a safe final journey and may God be with you.”

Brigadier Gardiner said an enquiry has commenced into Pte Atkins’ death. No date has been given as to when the inquiry will be complete.

Private Atkins was a member of the 3rd New Zealand Battalion Group in East Timor. He joined the Army in September 1999 as a Rifleman, and was normally based at Linton Camp with the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

ENDS

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