21 Feb 2011

IED hunter Olaf Schmid’s final hours: graphic timeline

The last day of bomb disposal expert Olaf Schmid’s life was fraught with tension and danger. Channel 4 News maps his final hours as he took on Afghanistan’s enemy IEDs, often with his bare hands.

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Dealing with multiple IEDs, in his final hours bomb disposal specialist Olaf Schmid tackled new threats on a minute-by-minute basis, often using his bare hands to disconnect command wires and wrench out explosive devices from the earth in the notorious Sangin area of Helmand in Afghanistan.

The 30-year-old, of the Royal Logistic Corps, from Truro in Cornwall, had been due to return home the following day after a gruelling operational tour of nearly five months during which he completed 41 “tasks”. These were “High Threat IED” tasks; each one would usually involve multiple IEDs. During his deployment Staff Sgt Schmid made safe 64 of these deadly devices.

On 31 October 2009 he was killed instantly as he tried to disarm one of these bombs. Here is a detailed rundown of his final hours.

Olaf Schmid: did ‘tiredness’ kill Afghanistan bomb expert?


10.00: Staff Sgt Schmid’s team is deployed on its first task of the day from Forward Operation Base Jackson after receiving an infantry “callsign” indicating an IED threat. Progress is slow because of the large amount of metal content in the area and the high threat of IEDs.

11.10: The search begins near Patrol Base Pylae. In the initial report into Staff Sgt Schmid’s death it is noted that his colleagues found him “uncharacteristically impatient” that day – perhaps because he feared the team would be in danger of finishing in the dark.

12.18: SSgt Schmid makes his first manual approach to disarm an IED command wire (CW). Incident Control Point (ICP) – a designated “safe” area.

12.26: SSgt Schmid finds an IED command wire and deploys an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) weapon to destroy the bomb. Then follows a two-minute “soak period” to make sure nothing further detonates.

12.28: SSgt Schmid finds two buried main charges in the ground and a suspected main charge in a wall.

13.00: SSgt Schmid then goes back to the device and is happy all main charges are now out of the ground.

13:11: SSgt Schmid gives a two-minute warning before the main charges are destroyed. The team then has 30 seconds to gather equipment before being sent to their second job of day.

British troops tackle IEDs in Afghanistan.


14:00: The team arrive to tackle their second task, at a compound 125 metres from the site of the first IED. Staff Sgt Schmid is briefed on two suspected IEDs, which infantry troops have kept watch over. Members of the bomb disposal team move in single file, keeping close to the walls, towards the ICP.

14:09: SSgt Schmid finds two pressure-plate IEDS with remote arming wires. He locates the battery packs and isolates the circuits by hand.

14.22: SSgt Schmid calls in Weapons Intelligence Section (WIS) operator LCpl Stace to take photos for evidence.

14.36: The main charges are destroyed in a controlled explosion. The team returns in single file to the compound.


14.50: The team moves under infantry escort to the third task of the day, passing through the ICP from the second IED task, moving south before turning east along an alley.

15.02: Two IED command wires are found; the first by Cpl Kelly, the second by SSgt Schmid. Schmid makes a manual cut on the command wire Cpl Kelly found. He then lifts a second CW out of the ground. Schmid then moves up the alley and finds three remote main charges. He uses his bayonet to scrape the soil from one of the charges.

15.10: SSgt Schmid again calls in WIS operator LCpl Stace. They realise that they are in the location of the previous task’s ICP, “safe” area. LCpl Stace shouts back what the main charges are: the first is three rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) with orange detonating cord, wrapped in clear and green plastic. The second is a pressure cooker and the third is a further three RPGs. SSgt Schmid wires the three charges and gives the two-minute warning.

15.34: The whole team return back towards the current ICP. SSgt Schmid then approached the device to check the firing cables. Once in the area, he shouts to colleague Cpl Nealey to test the circuit continuity. While this was happening Cpl Nealey sees that Schmid is down on knee close to one of the main charges. After the circuit test, he stands up and is seen to throw down some cable flex before moving back, out of the line of sight towards the second main charge. LCpl Parsons sees him carrying the service firing cable.

15:37: SSgt Schmid has been out of sight for 20 seconds. A large explosion occurs.

15.45: It is confirmed that SSgt Schmid has been killed.