View Full Version : NZSAS Major Dies in Bombing Mishap - Kuwait

13 March 2001, 16:47
Questions are being asked after a Christchurch soldier and five others were killed when a bomb from a United States fighter plane accidentally hit their observation post in Kuwait.

Major John McNutt, 27, was a highly regarded, gifted officer who had risen swiftly through the ranks.

He died yesterday when the observation post he was in was hit by a bomb launched from a United States carrier-based F18 fighter plane involved in a live training exercise in the Kuwaiti desert.

Red-faced American military chiefs have apologised for the bombing and launched an investigation into the incident which left Major McNutt and five US soldiers dead, and seven people injured.

New Zealand Army land force commander Brigadier Jerry Mateparae said Major McNutt, a member of the elite New Zealand Special Air Service, was a gifted officer who was held in high regard by his peers.

He had been deployed to Kuwait in December last year as liaison officer to the Coalition Force's headquarters. Part of his role was to assess the preparedness of military personnel stationed in the Persian Gulf.

"The fact that he was in such a responsible role at a relatively young age reflects the high regard with which he was held," Brigadier Mateparae said.

Major McNutt's grieving parents were yesterday being shielded from the news media at Burnham Army Camp. Brigadier Mateparae said they were struggling to come to terms with their son's sudden death and were being counselled by an army padre.

In a brief interview, Major McNutt's mother, Mary McNutt, said the death of her son was an "awful shock - you don't expect it when they're not in the firing line.

"But when you are serving personnel it is something you've got to expect."

Mrs McNutt said her son had been in Kuwait for only two or three months and, according to a recent e-mail, was enjoying himself.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the fatal training accident that claimed Major McNutt's life was a shocking and tragic embarrassment for the United States.

"I imagine the US Government itself will be wanting an explanation as to how unarmed observers can be killed in a training exercise," she said.

Defence Minister Mark Burton said it was an accident that should never have happened.

"It's a terrible tragedy and ... we are now looking for an urgent, detailed explanation as to how such a training exercise can go so terribly wrong," he said.

"This was a live bomb dropped on observers. It shouldn't happen and we all need to know precisely what went wrong."

Mr Burton said New Zealand would send an observer to the United States Accident Investigation Board inquiring into the accident.

"The Accident Investigation Board will be convened tomorrow, headed by a US Marines general, with senior officers of the US navy, army, and air force. At this stage, it is not known how long the inquiry will last," Mr Burton said.

"It has been agreed that a New Zealand Army colonel will be appointed as an observer to the inquiry."

Major McNutt, one of five children, was born on the West Coast and attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch before enlisting in the army in 1993.

He studied at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, graduating top of his class of 216 army trainees and attaining the rank of lieutenant.

He then served with the Christchurch-based 2/1 Battalion before joining the 1 NZSAS Group about 18 months ago.

An army report from a senior officer described Major McNutt as "determined, superbly fit, with a calm and thoughtful demeanour".

He was a keen rugby player, who played on the wing for the Kuwait Nomads football club in his spare time. He was also into mountaineering and hunting, and held a private helicopter pilot's licence.

St Andrew's College deputy rector Alister Newton described Major McNutt as a "totally reliable kid" who excelled academically and on the sports field.

"Academically, he was certainly well above average, but he was a good all-rounder," Mr Newton said. "He played in the 1st XV and won the college triathlon in the fifth and sixth form."

As a boarding house prefect, he was a role model for the younger students and well-respected.

"He was a pretty quiet, modest sort of boy. He was not an outgoing kid but he was looked up to as a role model," Mr Newton said.

Major McNutt's body will be brought back to New Zealand but the army has yet to finalise arrangements.

[This message has been edited by zeroalpha (edited 03-14-2001).]

[This message has been edited by zeroalpha (edited 03-18-2001).]

14 March 2001, 16:26
My condolences to his family.

I've got an article someone sent me on the NZ SAS conducting FAC training with the 5th SFG, and the USAF If you would like it. I'll forward it. It has a few photos of the NZ guys out on the range during a bombing run.

14 March 2001, 19:05
My condolences to the families of those involved in this tragic accident.

15 March 2001, 05:27
Originally posted by dsumner:
My condolences to his family.

I've got an article someone sent me on the NZ SAS conducting FAC training with the 5th SFG, and the USAF If you would like it. I'll forward it. It has a few photos of the NZ guys out on the range during a bombing run.

Yes, I would like to see it, if you could email it to me and the pics it would be much appreciated.

15 March 2001, 05:28
Originally posted by gear_guru:

So does this mean that ARMED observers would have had a better chance?

No, it means the Prime Minister doesnt know what she is talking about.....

16 March 2001, 00:29
Im thick, what do you mean GG ?

16 March 2001, 17:07
Zeroalpha, check your email. I'll be send the article as soon as I finish this.