Saturday, October 27, 2007

Soldier's father sues British company over wreck in Iraq


By KELLEY SHANNON / Associated Press

The family of an American soldier killed in Iraq when a private security vehicle collided with his 5-ton truck is suing the security company in U.S. federal court claiming gross negligence.

The British private company, Erinys, has made more than $150 million in Iraq and has contracts to protect the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the lawsuit filed by the father of Army Spc. Christopher T. Monroe.

Monroe, 19, of Kendallville, Ind., died in October 2005 in Basra, Iraq, after his unit recovered a disabled vehicle and stopped to help an Iraqi citizen who'd been in a car accident, the lawsuit states.

Monroe's father, Perry Monroe II of Texas, filed the lawsuit in federal district court in Houston on Wednesday.

A representative of Erinys did not immediately return calls to The Associated Press for comment Friday.

Private security companies operating in Iraq have come under increased scrutiny since a deadly shooting Sept. 16 involving Blackwater USA guards. Congress is taking steps toward putting all armed contractors operating in combat zones under military control.

The Texas federal court lawsuit states that Erinys was on a non-combat trip when the wreck in question happened.

Though an Erinys team had been warned that Monroe's Army convoy was ahead and was told to proceed with caution, the team was traveling fast in the dark with headlights off when the collision occurred, the lawsuit contends.

An armored Suburban struck Monroe and his truck, tearing off Monroe's right leg and throwing him 30 to 40 feet in the air, causing fatal injuries, the suit states.

"Christopher fought valiantly for his life for almost two hours and after receiving emergency care from his fellow soldiers, he died on a Medavac helicopter en route to Shalib Airbase," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit contends the Erinys team's actions were negligent and that the company's employees "failed to exercise ordinary care," which led to Monroe's death.

Erinys "had actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety and welfare of others," court documents state.

Christopher Monroe followed his grandfather and father into military service when he enlisted at the age of 17, having been moved by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the lawsuit states. He completed basic training between his junior and senior year of high school and finished high school as an Army reservist.

In 2005, he volunteered to join an understaffed unit that was being deployed to Iraq, since he was too young to join his original unit when it deployed to Cuba while he was still in high school. The vehicle collision occurred about four months after Monroe arrived in Iraq.

He left behind his mother, father and two younger brothers.

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