A former Wakatipu High student serving as an Australian soldier has been seriously wounded during a bomb attack in Afghanistan.
Curtis Wain Mcgrath, 25, was among four Australian Defence Force soldiers wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated during Afghan National Security Force operations in the province of Uruzgan last Thursday.
Mcgrath, who finished Wakatipu High as a Year 13 student in 2005, is understood to have been the most seriously wounded soldier.
Mountain Scene understands he suffered serious trauma to both his legs and was transferred to a German hospital, for advanced medical care including surgery.
His parents Paul and Kimberly, who lived in Frankton but are now believed to be based on Australia’s Gold Coast, have flown to Germany to be with their son.
Wakatipu High board of trustees chairman Alistair Nicholson says the school hasn’t received confirmation from the family that Mcgrath was involved.
“But we have heard third-hand that a former pupil of Wakatipu High has been severely injured in Afghanistan.
We do know that Curtis was involved in the Australian Defence Force,” he says.
“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the family at what must be a heart-wrenching time. It makes very real the costs of being involved in international conflict situations.
“Curtis is remembered by staff at the school. We have contact with his friends and will maintain contact with them.”
A schoolmate of Mcgrath’s, who didn’t want to be named, says his Queenstown peers are shocked by the news:
“At school, Curtis was a positive guy who was always thinking about other people. I don’t think anyone had a bad word to say about him.”
An Australian Defence Force statement confirms one seriously wounded soldier was aero-medically evacuated and transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany.
Lieutenant Colonel Trent Scott, the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) Task Group, says quick action by soldiers on the ground saved a comrade’s life.
“The application of immediate medical assistance meant that a soldier’s life was saved,” Scott says.
A second soldier is in a medical facility in Kandahar, while the other two soldiers are under medical observation in Tarin Kot.
The army won’t release details of wounded personnel.
“The soldiers had been working alongside their Afghan partners at the time of the incident. This is essential work as we transition to the Afghan security forces taking the lead on operations in the future,” Scott says.
“The thoughts of all members of Combined Team Uruzgan and 3 RAR Task Group are very much with the families and loved ones of those wounded in this incident.”
The attack in which Mcgrath was involved comes after the recent deaths of five Kiwi soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21, were killed by a roadside bomb on August 19 and Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer, 26, and Lance Corporal Rory Malone, 26, were killed by insurgents on August 4.