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Long way to recovery for injured marines

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Sergeant Phillip McGill (L) shows a fellow marine how to detonate TNT during a 2011 training session in the US. Photograph: Samuel A. Nasso/US Marines

Sergeant Phillip McGill (L) shows a fellow marine how to detonate TNT during a 2011 training session in the US. Photograph: Samuel A. Nasso/US Marines

Two US Marines injured in a demining accident on Tuesday that wounded four were still in the intensive-care unit last night following a series of harrowing operations.

A source at the Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok said both men were in a stable condition, but stressed it was too early to say whether they would require further surgery or to predict when they might be released.

Sergeant David Crouse was “recovering OK” after two operations on Wednesday — one to remove shrapnel from wounds in both arms, the other to insert a prosthetic left eye.

“He’s in good condition now,” the source said.

Sergeant Phillip McGill, the second, and more severely injured, of the two, remained on a respirator yesterday after a six-hour abdominal and vascular surgery that began on Wednesday night and dragged into early yesterday morning.

As of yesterday afternoon, McGill was conscious and his condition was listed as stable. Two other men, Lieutenant Matthew Schaefer and Len Austin, deputy director of field operations for the demining NGO Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, were doing well and expected to make full recoveries after smaller operations on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the expert deminers were injured when a UXO exploded as they attempted to disarm it.

Once disabled, the 23-millimetre anti-aircraft ammunition was to have been used as part of a training course the Marines were running at the Cambodian Mine Action Centre’s Kampong Chhnang province facility.

CMAC has already begun an ongoing investigation, and both the Marines and Golden West are launching inquiries of their own, confirmed US Embassy spokesman John Simmons.

Speaking from Bangkok, a colleague visiting Austin said he appeared to be “doing well and is expected to make a full recovery”.

“He’s walking around, he’s chatting,” said the colleague, who asked that his name not be used, because he is not a spokesperson for Golden West.

“I can confirm that Len is expected to make a full recovery. Generally, [his injuries] won’t cause permanent damage,” he said, adding that Austin had sustained burns and shrapnel wounds.

Asked whether Austin – who has worked with the foundation for seven years and has over two decades of demining experience – intended to return to the dangerous line of work, his colleague responded without pause. “Yes.”


To contact the reporter on this story: Abby Seiff at



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