Bomb disposal hero was 'impatient'

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The Independent Online

A George Cross-winning bomb disposal hero was killed in Afghanistan after rushing his deadly work when his stepson told him: "Daddy, time to come home".

Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid was "impatient", "rushed" and had told a comrade to "hurry up" before he died while attempting to disarm an improvised explosive device (IED), an inquest heard.

Lance Corporal Gary Parsons fought back tears as he recalled the incident and later told how "Oz" had spoken to five-year-old stepson Laird by phone on the night before his death.

S/Sgt Schmid, who disarmed 64 IEDs in five months, had been due to return home for a break from duty the day after his death.

"It was as though he had set himself a timeframe to complete the tasks," L/Cpl Parsons told the hearing in Truro, Cornwall.

"That previous evening he had a phone call with his stepson."

During the conversation, Laird had said "Daddy, time to come home", the comrade added.

Other comrades paid tribute to their "inspirational" leader but said S/Sgt Schmid had seemed under pressure and had made "some sort of comment about speeding up".

Corporal Thomas Stace said the 30-year-old, of the Royal Logistic Corps, had been "somewhat impatient" as he defused a host of IEDs on October 31, 2009.

But he said the pressure was not imposed by Army chiefs.

"I think he was under pressure to deal with them all and that it was a self-imposed pressure," Cpl Stace said in written evidence to the hearing in Truro, Cornwall.

S/Sgt Schmid's widow, Christina, wearing a black suit, had walked out on proceedings midway through the morning session as Sapper Craig Butterworth, who witnessed the death, described signs of stress.

Several comrades suggested his mindset may have been shaped by the fact that he would be soon be seeing his family.

But Sapper Butterworth said of the bomb disposal expert: "He was an inspiration to the team and a total professional.

"Whoever takes his position has some big shoes to fill."

S/Sgt Schmid had been trying to disarm his third IED of the day when Sapper Butterworth heard a blast and a comrade later shouted: "Oz is dead."

Sapper Butterworth added: "On that day it occurred to me that he was slightly rushed. I could only think that this was because it was his last day before going home for rest and recuperation."

At one point, while pulling up a suspected IED wire with his hands, he turned to a comrade and said: "Don't look at me, you did not see this."

Lance Corporal Steven Fisher suggested some of his actions on the day were "out of character".

L/Cpl Fisher said S/Sgt Schmid was "clearly getting frustrated" and during one exercise heard him tell a colleague: "You have not seen me do this. This is my threat assessment."

S/Sgt Schmid was in good health but had fainted while on duty on September 14, HM pathologist Nicholas Hunt told the hearing.

He was posthumously awarded the George Cross gallantry award for his efforts.

Born in Truro, S/Sgt Schmid lived in Winchester, Hampshire, with Christina and Laird.

He joined the Army in 1996 and, during the summer before his death, took part in Operation Panther's Claw, the Army's offensive to clear populated areas in central Helmand of Taliban insurgents.

Corporal Robert Nealey said S/Sgt Schmid was restless.

"He was not his usual jovial self," he told the court. "I put that down to last day jitters."

The bomb disposal expert wanted to get the job done before returning home, Cpl Nealey added.

"Oz was not the sort of man to leave a job half done. He would have put pressure on himself to finish."