Platoon commander admitted fault for soldier's death, tribunal hears

Calgary reservist and firefighter, Maj. Darryl Watts.



CALGARY — The Calgary Canadian Forces reservist charged with the training-exercise death of a soldier under his command told a military cop he was to blame for the tragedy.

In an interrogation 8 1/2 months after the death of Cpl. Joshua Baker and the wounding of four others, Maj. Darryl Watts admitted as platoon commander, the fault ultimately was his.

But in a Calgary interview, Watts told Petty Officer Eric McLaughlin he put faith in his own second in command, Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale, to conduct the live firing exercise of Claymore mines in Afghanistan.

Watts, 44, then captain of his platoon, faces six charges, including manslaughter, in the Feb. 12, 2010 death of Baker and wounding of four others under his command.

Prosecutors at a court martial hearing being conducted at Mewata Armoury played a videotaped statement Watts made on Oct. 28, 2010.

In it, McLaughlin grilled Watts on his handling of the training exercise on barren land just north of Kandahar city.

"Ultimately, who was responsible for what happened here?" McLaughlin asked, after pointing out numerous safety deficiencies prior to the deadly blast.

"I would be as platoon commander," Watts said. "I'm responsible for everything that happens in my platoon."

Watts said he had limited information on the handling of Claymore mines and no training with the weapons and relied on Ravensdale's experience to oversee the training drill.

But McLaughlin pointed out there were numerous manuals Watts could have accessed. Or he simply could have cancelled the whole exercise if none were found.

"Do you think it would've been a good idea to go back and look at those manuals?" asked the investigator with the Canadian Forces National Investigation Services.

"Ideally, yeah," Watts said. "Absolutely, 20/20 hindsight, it would be good to find everything and get all the details, but that wasn't available to me," he said.

Watts said it was his belief all the soldiers in the training exercise took proper cover prior to the third Claymore being detonated, but acknowledged video taken at the time, and played for him by McLaughlin, showed exposed soldiers standing too close.

Ravensdale is set to face a court martial on the same charges in the new year.

The trial of Watts, who could face anything from demotion in rank to time in prison if convicted, continues on Thursday.

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