News

NZ soldier slips into a coma

Alexander Teira Cowan, 25, collapsed after suffering heat stroke during an SAS selection test in the Hunua Ranges.
Alexander Teira Cowan, 25, collapsed after suffering heat stroke during an SAS selection test in the Hunua Ranges. Supplied

A NEW ZEALAND soldier trying out for the elite SAS is in a coma after suffering extreme heat stroke while taking part in a gruelling selection course.

Lieutenant Alexander Teira Cowan, 25, collapsed while running in the Hunua Ranges near the SAS base in South Auckland.

The incident has sparked an inquiry into selection processes for the New Zealand Special Air Service, which has the motto "Who Dares Wins".

Medics on the scene could not revive Cowan and called St John Ambulance to take him to Middlemore Hospital on Wednesday, where he remains in a coma with possible brain damage.

Speaking from the family home in Bridge Pa, Cowan's father Monty said he had doubts his son would survive. "He's pretty crook. I don't know if he's going to pull through.

"I don't know what's caused it. I'm just waiting and hoping he is going to pull through. The only thing that is saving his life right now is he is super fit and very strong. His body is all that is pulling him through."

Monty Cowan said "Teira" was the youngest in the family and his three sisters rushed to his bedside at Middlemore Hospital as soon as the family learned of the accident.

Since then, information has been limited because there has been no change.

He said the young soldier is in an induced coma. "He's been unconscious since he got there. He hasn't moved or anything. I just wait for phonecalls to see if he has improved."

Cowan's discretion about his role in the army would have served him well in the secretive SAS. His father said he was silent on trips home about what he did. "He doesn't discuss anything with us. He won't even tell us where he goes and what he does." Despite his silence, he did tell his father he "might have a shot" at a spot in the elite unit.

Cowan, who recently returned from serving in Timor-Leste, remained in intensive care last night.

"His condition is causing concern," a hospital spokeswoman said.

Army chief Major General Tim Keating said an inquiry would review whether the selection process needed to change.

Keating, who had passed the same selection process once to qualify as a SAS member, said the inquiry would be a "full examination around the specific officer who was injured and how the injury occurred".

Keating said the selection process had been refined over decades and was "a pretty safe process".

"It's very physically and mentally demanding. Its aim is to push you to your physical and mental limits but not to injure anyone."

He said the selection candidates had set out about 1pm on Wednesday for a task which was part of selection.

He said the group was required to complete an 8km run in uniform while carrying equipment in a load-carrying vest weighing about 10kg.

About 2.20pm, the group were reaching the end of the activity when Cowan stopped and fell to the ground "where he became unconscious", said Keating.

"He received immediate first aid assistance and an army medic commenced treatment within five minutes of his collapse."

He said a medic had followed the group through the activity and was close by to help the fallen soldier.

A former SAS trainer said only 10 per cent of people made it through the rigorous SAS selection process.

"It is 60 per cent mental and 40 per cent physical. They only select people that are tough. It is designed to weed out the dreamers and it does.

"If this individual was not prepared enough, had not done enough training, did not drink enough water, he would have struggled and he would have been so focused on not quitting that he would have pushed himself too far," he said.

In the first day of the selection process, hopefuls faced a 2.4km run, 30 push ups, 66 curl ups, a 5m rope climb then had to climb a 1.8m wall.

They also must complete battle efficiency training which involved running 8km in under one hour and 12 minutes carrying 35kg.

Sports physician Chris Hanna said heat stroke could be life-threatening. "If you are exercising in an environment where you are creating more heat than is escaping from your body your temperature will build up.

"If you are wearing protective clothing and wearing a pack you will build up heat," he said.

He said the body functioned best at 37C and organs stopped functioning properly at more than 42C.

"The body loses its ability to regulate its processes and that can cause swelling in the brain. It is vital to cool the person down as quickly as possible to prevent long term damage."

Last year the SAS changed their policy to allow "motivated and talented" civilians to join. SAS training takes nine months, with advanced navigation, weaponry, medical and demolition skills required to be a member of the unit.

Topics:  sas



How to survive a bushfire in your car

IT SOUNDS like a nightmare, but it can happen.

Eight reasons to join the RFS

SPREAD across 93% of Queensland, the Rural Fire Service has about 36,000 volunteers. And you could be one of them.

What if my insurer gives me grief?

CLAIMING your insurance cover after a natural disaster can go one of two ways. It can be a breeze, or like pulling teeth.

Students learn important lesson, get drenched

Alyssa Tatti, Savannah Halley, Krystal Simon and Anlil Basson took full advantage of the midday relief.

These agencies here today help us in so many different ways.

Rose City unites in festive event

SPECIAL GUESTS: Long-term performers Erin Hilton and Melissa Reid will take to the stage for the Carols in the Park on December 15.

Local performers entertain at Carols in the Park

Warwick woman's horror at dog locked in car

DANGEROUS: On a 30°C day, the temperature inside the car could be as high as 70°C.

"The dog was huffing and puffing,” she said.

Local Partners

Taylor Lautner 'spotted smooching co-star'

Taylor Lautner has been romantically linked to Billie Lourd

David Beckham's tattoos come to life for UNICEF campaign

David Beckham has called for an end to violence against children

Pop star Liam Payne's Facebook hacked with porn

"Things that can happen to you when you don't have sex."

Tim Roth was abused by his grandfather

Tim Roth was abused by his grandfather during his childhood.

Leo designs shocker tattoo for Tom Hardy after lost bet

Leonardo DiCaprio has designed a new tattoo for Tom Hardy

Hollywood star at home on the Coffs Coast

FEELING LUCKY, SON?: Scott Eastwood visited the Coffs Coast

Guess which Hollywood star has been seen around the Coffs Coast?

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Couple's desperate $550K price drop to sell Gladstone home

Brian Headley and Kirstene Staib are selling their Kin Kora mansion for $750,000.

TELL tale sign of Gladstone's property market.

Banks reclaim Gladstone homes as job losses bite

LONG FALL: Property experts Heron Todd say, based on key market indicators, Gladstone is still travelling to the bottom of the market, with property prices set to get cheaper.

Property valuers say Gladstone housing market hasn't hit the bottom

The million dollar property to test Mackay's market

This Victoria St building will go to auction Tuesday and investors will be watching closely to see how much it sells for.

'High profile architect designed CBD asset' goes to auction

Prices jump in trio of mining towns

THE boost in coal prices in the past six months has triggered a house price jump in at least three mining towns in Central Queensland.

Boost in coal prices triggers a market turnaround

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!