KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A Canadian soldier who was injured during a previous tour of duty has been found dead in Afghanistan.
Maj. Michelle Mendes, based in Ottawa, was found dead in her room at
the Kandahar Airfield on Thursday afternoon, the Canadian Forces said
in a statement early Friday. Mendes, 30, is the third female soldier to
die during the Afghan mission, and the second this month.
The statement said the incident was under investigation, although enemy action had been ruled out as a cause of death.
No further details were available.
Kandahar Airfield serves as the base for most of the 2,700 Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
Mendes was with Joint Task Force Kandahar headquarters.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of our
lost comrade,” said Maj. Mario Couture, in a brief statement. “Our
primary focus at this time is to provide the best possible support to
the family of our soldier and to her colleagues.”
The military said Mendes’ family was not commenting at this time.
The death was the first Canadian loss of life since
April 14, when 21-year-old Trooper Karine Blais, who served with the
Royal 22nd Regiment based at CFB Valcartier, near Quebec City, was
killed in a roadside bomb blast.
A funeral for Blais was to be held Friday in Les Mechins, Que.
The latest death brings to 118 the total number of
Canadian soldiers who have died during the Afghan mission since it
began in 2002.
Mendes was among 11 soldiers who returned to Canada for treatment in September 2006, after being injured in Afghanistan.
The nature of her injuries were not released.
Military officials in Kandahar said that Mendes’ family has asked for privacy and will release a statement in the coming days.
Mendes’ mother, Dianne Knight, told the Colborne
Chronicle community newspaper in 2006 that her daughter wanted “an
entire career in the army,” eventually opting for intelligence.
“I was thrilled,” Knight said. “It’s right up her
alley. She spends the majority of her time reading and analyzing
things, and she’s so good at it”.
Knight told the paper that her daughter, who
graduated with a history degree in 2001 from Kingston’s Royal Military
College, had a positive outlook on her deployment to Afghanistan.
“A lot of her friends have been and come back, and a lot of her friends were going when she was going.”
There have been several other non-combat deaths during the mission that resulted from tragic accidents.
Capt. Jonathan Sutherland Snyder from 1st Battalion
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was killed after falling
into a well during a night-time patrol in a field in Zhari district,
west of Kandahar, in June 2008.
In March, 2007, Corp. Kevin Megeney, a 25-year-old
reservist with 1st Battalion of the Nova Scotia Highlanders, died after
being shot in the chest while in his tent. Cpl. Matthew Wilcox faces
multiple charges in connection with the death.
In August, 2006, Master Cpl. Jeffery Walsh of Regina
was killed in a shooting accident on patrol outside Kandahar. Master
Cpl. Robbie Fraser, based in Shilo, Man., with 2nd Battalion, Princess
Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment, was charged with one count
of manslaughter and one count of negligent performance of duty.
The military has only determined that one soldier has committed suicide while on duty in Afghanistan.
Maj. Raymond Ruckpaul was found dead from a gunshot
inside the headquarters of the International Security and Assistance
Force in Kabul on Aug. 29, 2007.
The number of former soldiers suffering from
post-traumatic stress has more than tripled since Canada first deployed
troops to Afghanistan, say figures released by Veterans Affairs Canada.