SHILO, Man. - The mother of a soldier killed in a training accident in Afghanistan broke down Tuesday as she told a court martial her life is over.
"When my son breathed his last breath on that day in Afghanistan, my life ended," Janet Baker testified.
"There is no life any more ... just an existence, a shell walking around."
Baker appeared gaunt and tired and frequently wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke at the sentencing hearing of retired warrant officer Paul Ravensdale. He was found guilty last month of four charges, including breach of duty causing death. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, but the prosecution has yet to say what sentence it will seek.
Ravensdale was leading a test of C-19 anti-personnel mines on a weapons range near Kandahar city in February 2010 when one mine misfired and sent hundreds of steel ball bearings in the wrong direction. Instead of fanning out forwards, the bearings shot backwards toward soldiers who were watching.
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Some of the projectiles hit and killed Cpl. Josh Baker, who was 24. Four other soldiers were injured.
Baker's mother recalled the moment a military notification team told her that her son was dead.
"I just bent over and I screamed for Joshua ... 'Dear God, No!'"
Later, she said, she watched as her son's coffin was taken off a military plane and to a funeral home, where she held him one last time.
"I told him, 'I will miss you, son, until I see you in heaven.'"
Ravensdale was convicted of ignoring the operating manual for C-19 mines, as well as for neglecting Canadian Forces training safety rules, which require soldiers to be at least 100 metres behind the mines or shielded from them.
Video played at the court martial showed some soldiers standing much closer and unprotected.
Josh Baker's commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Michael Prendergast, said the death affected the entire unit.
"To us ... it was quite a senseless death. We all thought it could have been preventable."
Baker's stepsister also testified about the impact the death has had on her. Heather Middleton said one of her young sons has had to undergo counselling and is afraid every time she leaves their Edmonton home.
"He really struggles when I've had to go away. He doesn't want to go to bed at night," Middleton said.
Ravensdale faced the most serious charges stemming from the accident because he gave the order to fire and was also the safety officer on the weapons range that day. Days after the accident, he told a military investigator he had no idea why the mine misfired. He said the blast was much louder than it should have been and "all hell broke loose."
His lawyer told the court martial last month that Ravensdale was following a training plan that had been approved by his superiors and could not have foreseen the accident.
Two of Ravensdale's superiors have already been convicted.
Maj. Darryl Watts was demoted two ranks to lieutenant and given a severe reprimand on charges of negligence and unlawfully causing bodily harm.
Maj. Christopher Lunney was demoted one rank to captain and given a severe reprimand after pleading guilty to negligent performance of duty.
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Cpl. Joshua Caleb Baker
Age: 24 Hometown: Edmonton, Alta Unit: Loyal Edmonton Regiment, 4th Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Deceased: February 12, 2010 Incident: Training Accident, Kandahar City, Afghanistan
Cpl. Zachery McCormack
Age: 21 Hometown: Edmonton, Alta Unit: Loyal Edmonton Regiment, 4th Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Deceased: December 30, 2009 Incident: Improvised explosive device, Kandahar City, Afghanistan
Sgt. George Miok
Age: 28 Hometown: Edmonton, Alta Unit: 41 Combat Engineer Regiment Deceased: December 30, 2009 Incident: Improvised explosive device, Kandahar City, Afghanistan
Sapper Steven Marshall
Age: 24 Hometown: Calgary, Alberta Unit: 1 Combat Engineer Regiment Deceased: October 30, 2009 Incident: Improvised explosive device, south-east of Kandahar City, Afghanistan.
Pte. Chadwick James Horn
Age: 21 Home Town: Calgary, AB Unit: 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Deceased: September 3, 2008 Incident: Insurgent attack, Zharey district, Afghanistan
Cpl. Michael Starker
Age: 36 Home Town: Calgary, AB Unit: 15 (Edmonton) Field Ambulance, Calgary, Alberta Deceased: May 6, 2008 Incident: Insurgent attack, Zharey District, Afghanistan.
Tpr. Michael Y. Hayakaze
Age: 25 Home Town: Edmonton, AB Unit: Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), Edmonton, Alberta Deceased: March 2, 2008 Incident: Improvised explosive device, Panjwa'i district, Afghanistan
Cpl. Nathan Hornburg
Age: 24 Home Town: Calgary, Alberta Unit: The King’s Own Calgary Regiment, Alberta Deceased: September 24, 2007 Anti-tank attack, Panjwa'i District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Pte. Joel Wiebe
Age: 22 Home Town: Edmonton, Alberta Unit: 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Edmonton, Alberta) Deceased: June 20, 2007 Incident: Improvised Explosive Device, Afghanistan
Sgt. Shane Stachnik
Age: 30 Home Town: Waskatenau, Alberta Unit: 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (Petawawa, Ontario) Deceased: September 3rd, 2006 Incident: Ground offensive
Master Cpl. Raymond Arndt
Age: 31 Home Town: Edson, Alberta Unit: The Loyal Edmonton Regiment (Edmonton, Alberta) Deceased: August 5, 2006 Incident: Traffic accident
Pte. Kevin Dallaire
Age: 22 Home Town: Calgary, Alberta Unit: 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (Edmonton, Alberta) Deceased: August 3, 2006 Incident: Ground offensive
Cpl. Francisco Gomez, CD
Age: 44 Home town: Edmonton, Alberta Unit: 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (Edmonton, Alberta) Deceased: July 22, 2006 Incident: Suicide attack
Capt. Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard, MSM
Age: 26 Home Town: Calgary, Alberta Unit: 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (Shilo, Manitoba) Deceased: May 17, 2006 Incident: Ground offensive
Master Cpl. Timothy Wilson
Age: 30 Home Town: Grande Prairie, Alberta Unit: 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (Shilo, Manitoba) Deceased: March 5, 2006 Incident: LAV III traffic accident
Sgt. Darcy Scott Tedford, CD
Although he was born in Calgary, Sgt. Tedford grew up in Earlton N.S., the place he called home. Age: 32 Home Town: Calgary, Alberta Unit: 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (Petawawa, Ontario) Deceased: October 14, 2006 Incident: Insurgent attack