Female officer tried to stop deadly cannon

A female artillery officer risked her life at Lohatlha on Friday in a desperate bid to prevent members of her battery being killed by their own anti-aircraft gun, the Saturday Star reported.

The brave officer was unable to stop the wildly swinging, computerised Swiss/German Oerlikon 35mm MK5 anti-aircraft twin-barrelled gun. It sprayed hundreds of high-explosive, 0,5kg 35mm cannon shells around the five-gun firing position.

By the time the gun had emptied its twin 250-round auto-loader magazine, eight soldiers were dead and 11 injured.

A ninth soldier, a woman, died in Bloemfontein, moments after being airlifted by a South African Air Force helicopter to Pelonomi Hospital in that city.

The shooting accident happened during a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) anti-aircraft gun training exercise at the Lohatla combat training area in the Northern Cape.

The injured soldiers were taken to 3 Military and Pelonomi hospitals in Bloemfontein, SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Kwena Mangope said.

Mangope said 24 soldiers were taking part in the training event during Exercise Seboka when the accident happened at about 9am.

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and SANDF chief General Godfrey Ngwenya extended their condolences to the families of the deceased.

Exercise Seboka is an annual joint conventional military exercise, involving almost 5 000 soldiers, including 18 army units and various air-force, navy and military health service units. — Sapa

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