Monday, July 4, 2016

Anti-personnel Mines In The Central Park, NYC?

College kid’s foot ‘mutilated’ after freak explosion in Central Park. A college kid had his foot blown off in Central Park on Sunday after stepping on a homemade firecracker, officials said.

Connor Golden, 18, was climbing on rocks near East 60th Street and Fifth Avenue with two buddies — Thomas Hinds, 20, and Matthew Stabile, 18 — when he stepped on the object around 11 a.m., according to police.

“His foot was mutilated,” said Hinds, who spoke to The Post from the 19th Precinct on Sunday afternoon. “I was walking in front of him and suddenly heard this extremely loud explosion directly behind me. When I turned around, I saw Connor lying there, his foot completely gone. It was insane. He was moaning and saying, ‘Get help.’ ”

After the incident, the NYPD’s bomb squad was called in to confirm whether it was a firecracker that caused the explosion and not something more sinister. They determined that the blast was, in fact, the result of “explosive experimentation,” or the making of one’s own fireworks.

“It is not unusual for the public to make or try to create homemade fireworks around the Fourth of July,” explained Lt. Mark Torre, head of the NYPD Bomb Squad. “This is a time of a year where typically we will see a lot of experimentation — explosive experimenters, if you will. Their goal is to make a loud noise, maybe make a flash. They like to make noise and sort of play with fireworks, and it’s even better if they can make their own.”

Law enforcement sources told The Post that whoever left the device was likely not trying to cause any intentional harm to anyone. “It was a homemade device. They probably tried to light it on Friday night, but it didn’t go off because of the rain,” a source said. “[Investigators] found wet matches near it. It probably just went off because of the friction of him stepping on it.”

Officials also confirmed that the tiny explosive was in a brown bag and did not appear to be designed to be pressure-sensitive. “There is some forensic evidence that indicates that it was not meant go off by someone stepping on it,” Torre said. “It was there longer than a day.”

According to Hinds, Golden and his friends arrived in New York on Saturday evening. He said the trio are high school buddies and were in town visiting from Fairfax, Va., for the Fourth of July holiday. Golden is a student at the University of Miami in Florida, Hinds attends Northwestern University and Stabile is enrolled at Bard College, Hinds said.

On Sunday, just one day into their vacation, the trio decided to try to find some places in Central Park to go slacklining — an outdoor activity where people tie a rope between two objects and attempt to walk across it.

“We were planning on slacklining between some trees,” Hinds explained. “We were getting up on the rocks to get a good look at the area. We walked up there totally normal, saw nothing suspicious, and then on our walk down, it happened.” Sources said Golden was transported to Bellevue Hospital, where he would undergo surgery.

Witnesses in the area said the makeshift firecracker that he stepped on could be heard outside the funeral of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

“At first, I though we were being attacked,” Hinds said. “It was a very loud explosion, and I couldn’t help but think of all the stuff in the news. That’s just what your mind automatically jumps to. But when I turned around and saw that [Connor] had stepped on something and was hurt, I went into shock. I realized that that could’ve been me. I went ahead first and the place where he stepped was inches away from where I was walking.”

John Murphy, a Connecticut resident who is also in town visiting for the holiday, said Hinds and Stabile freaked out when they realized the extent of Golden’s injuries. “The friends were just in shock,” he said. “He was severely injured. His left leg was severely damaged, all bone and muscle.”

Murphy said that when he walked up on the scene, Golden was lying on the ground — his foot completely missing below the ankle. Despite this, he managed to somehow stay alert until EMS arrived. “He was an absolute trouper,” Murphy said. “I couldn’t believe it. We just stayed with him, tried to keep him calm until EMS showed up. He was in shock. I don’t think he even realized what had happened.”

Karma Thrinley Nyima, a 49-year-old who sells pictures from a stand in Central Park, described seeing a man use his belt to make a tourniquet in an attempt to stop the bleeding. “I saw the leg from far away. I got very scared,” he said. “The leg was bleeding and one guy took off his belt and was trying to stop the blood. I was too scared to go over there.”

Authorities had been speaking to Hinds and Stabile at the Central Park Precinct and 19th Precinct, respectively, to find out whether they were playing with fireworks at the time of the incident. But they eventually were able to prove that this was not the case. “The victim and his two friends, we don’t consider them to be part of the construction of this object,” Torre said.

Hinds told The Post that cops had been grilling him for hours about the incident — and were at one point implying that it was their fault — even though he repeatedly insisted they did not have any fireworks.

“It’s ridiculous. They’ve been asking me questions for two hours,” he said. “They want us to admit that we were playing with fireworks, but we really weren’t. We didn’t have anything on us explosive at all. But I know how it goes. If it was just us f–king around with fireworks, it would be a lot easier for them. But it’s not. And that’s actually really scary. Why would we do that?!”

In a Facebook post written July 1, Hinds describes “feeling pumped” about spending time in the Big Apple. “All y’all New York types better prepare thyselves,” he said. Hinds later recalled how he and his friends were planning on eventually heading upstate to go camping in the Adirondack Mountains — and how Golden was really looking forward to it.

“Connor is a really laid-back guy who really likes music and the outdoors,” Hinds said. “We love to go camping together, so on the fifth day of our trip, we were gonna head upstate to the Adirondacks for the weekend and then head home. But that’s all changed. Now, I just hope they can put his foot back together.”

Officials said that whoever constructed the pyrotechnic was well-versed in how explosives work. “Clearly, I would say this is someone that had knowledge of chemistry, but you don’t have to be anything more than good with computers to get enough knowledge of chemistry to be able to create some of this type of material from readily available materials, unfortunately,” Torre said.

Anti-personnel Mines Are Absolutely Horrifying Nightmare

Mines, mines, mines, I absolutely hate mines, especially those small anti-personnel land mines with the sole purpose of taking completely off someone’s foot who unfortunately and unknowingly had just stepped on one of those suckers hidden underneath in the ground.

I had a really nightmarish personal experience with those so-called explosive devices when I was a teenage soldier in Burmese Army more than 40 years ago. Landmines have been around for a very long times since the Westerners discovered gun powder invented by ancient Chinese many thousands of years ago.

US Army has also developed many anti-personnel mines since WW2. The M16 Jumping Jack widely used during the Vietnam War is one of the most notorious ones killing and maiming sometimes as many as 20 enemy soldiers in one devastating blast. 

But under Chairman Mao’s guidance Chinese PLA has developed very small mines dedicated just to wound enemy soldiers but not to kill them. Since our enemies KIA (Kachin Independence Army) and CPB (Communist Party of Burma) were Chinese allies they unleashed those abundantly available Chinese-supplied so-called Soapbox Mines on us Burmese soldiers fighting them in the jungle.

One of the many dangers we had to watch out for in the jungle was a bobby trap with anti-personnel mine. We were told at the boot camp that one of the military theories, developed for guerrilla warfare by the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao-Tse-Tung, stated that an injured soldier would hinder the movement of an enemy unit more than a dead soldier, since the enemy had to waste two soldiers to carry the wounded rather than simply bury the dead and move on.

Adhering to that principle, the Chinese military had developed small plastic explosive mines meant to mainly maim enemy combatants. All plastic, both housing and explosive, with very little metal content, these small soapboxes-like anti-personnel mines were severely crippling and demoralizing our soldiers. Randomly planted by the enemy these mines also indiscriminately injured many innocent villagers and their domestic animals.

Hard to locate by ordinary mine detectors since these mines had very few detectable metal parts, and easy to be hidden as bobby traps in any situation, a single mine could not kill a man even if he stepped directly on it. But it could give a nasty wound on the limbs, such as the loss of half of the foot or just part of the forearm, but serious enough to evacuate the wounded back to a base hospital.

Our Army was training sniffer dogs to detect these mines and we had been told that we would have the dogs in the near future. In the mean time we just had to look out for obvious abnormalities and visible disturbances on the tracks we frequently used and try our best not to disturb or touch the undergrowth or tree branches by the sides of the tracks.

We were also instructed to change the route quite often so that the enemy wouldn’t be able to find out the tracks we regularly used and mine them. One particular practice was to use tracks made by wild animals on the ridges where the jungle and its undergrowth were relatively thinner.

Even though seemingly meaningless and directionless these tracks were, by combining these loose sections of tracks we could make out a safe and usable trails most of the time. If there were no tracks available we just hacked our ways through the jungle with our army issued wide-bladed, nasty looking machetes.

After reading the New York Post article on the freak explosion, in NYC Central Park, taking a foot clearly off the 19-yrs old American tourist, Connor Golden, I had a horrifying nightmare last night reliving one of my own encounters with anti-personnel land mines. I used to live in E-65 Street just a couple of blocks away from Central Park for nearly 3 years and I normally walked past that exact spot almost every time I was in Central Park, damn bastards whoever planted that fucking mine. Hopefully the bloody Muslims are not mining the Central Park as New York will doom without her magnificent Central park.

(Following is the extracts from my fictionalized semi-autobiographical novel “Song For Irrawaddy” which is available on the AMAZON.)

A field amputation Burmese Army style, Rough and Raw.
A Burmese soldier amputee and his wife sleeping rough on a railway station platform.
(There reportedly are nearly 150,000 Burmese veteran amputees because of Chinese mines.)
Retired Burmese army soldiers the victims of land mines.
One Wrong Step

Our section leader, Corporal Tin Win, was a strange man, for he kept to himself most of the time without really mixing with us. Back in the boot camp he used to treat us recruits real bad and now in the jungle he probably felt strange to be friendly with us as comrades sleeping in the same bunker. We also knew that he didn’t have combat experience since he came from the Training Corps and all of his ten odd years service was in the boot camps teaching Physical Education or PT as we called it.

He even told me once that he was dead scared of losing his limbs after seeing so many amputees back in the battalion compound. All of us were too, but we had to face the danger and at least tried to enjoy what little pleasure we had in the jungle instead of being scared to death. Being young and reckless, we didn’t think too serious about us being maimed or killed even though the near certain death was always lurking in this unforgiving jungle. And around the section fire at nights we talked a lot about getting killed and all that grave stuff. Most of us had the crazy idea of killing ourselves rather than going back home as a cripple if ever became an amputee.

We also thought our section leader was a kind of coward as he refused to leave the base most of the times and always sent me out with the rest for the section patrols. For his own benefits, he was now trusting me with his own section even though he didn’t really like me at all. His excuse always was a bad hernia he suffered whenever he had to walk a long distance. He also openly told me a few times that his hernia had come back because of his sexual inactivity. He might be missing the desperate housewives from the battalion back in the town.

That might also be the same reason he was deliberately sent by the battalion to the most forward base and forced to walk a long distance everyday. Even without me telling around, his cuckold making reputation might be well known back in the battalion. If our captain ever found out about our corporal’s affair with his young wife back in the battalion, Corporal Tin Win would be a dead meat soon, I reckoned.

Eventually, about three months after our arrival at Base 2 he was asked to lead our section for a long-range patrol on the ranges north. Normally patient Sarge was fast running out of excuses and finally forced him to leave the base. On the trip north, my squad was put on the point always as we had the reputation of being a daring squad after that successful ambush on the enemy messenger. Our brave Naw Taung the only Kachin in our section was always the point man as he surprisingly knew well how to look out for the plastic mines on the track. Sometimes, we even cruelly teased him by accusing him of knowing where the mines exactly were by secretly asking his Kachin KIA brothers. But his skin was so thick he couldn’t care less whatever we were implying.

But on that day, he was uncharacteristically nervous on the trails as we prepared to turn back to our base after two days of aimless wandering in the jungle under the leadership of our great corporal.

“Zaw Moe, listen, I don’t like it! I just saw some fresh prints on the grass. Just partial prints. But here is too far and too deep in the jungle to see some civilian prints. And they seemed like deliberately hiding their footprints,” whispered Naw Taung as he walked past me to take the point position. We were just to start our long trek back home after a few hours meal rest. Also, he sounded like he wanted me to talk to the Corporal about imminent danger on the trails ahead.

“We shouldn’t be using the regular tracks. They’ll probably mine somewhere ahead of us,” I walked back to where the Corporal was and suggested to find an alternative route for the return trip.

“So what do you suggest? We hack into the undergrowth and avoid all the tracks. It will take a lot of time to get back to the base that way!” he barked at me with an obvious annoyance.

“I’m afraid the enemy must have known by now that we are in the area. It’s just too dangerous to retrace the way we just came, corporal,” I was simply relaying the important message back to the section leader as Naw Taung, who already had a strange feel of enemy nearby, had seriously warned me.

“I’m not feeling well. My hernia is coming back again and I need to get back to the base as quick as possible. Just watch out for the mines on the track,” he wouldn’t budge and I had to follow his order. I just walked back to the point of the single file line and took a position behind Naw Taung. Soe Win was directly behind me and I sort of winked at him to be really careful.

After a few hours slow march on an uphill track wide enough for two men to walk abreast, the grassy path suddenly turned narrow and began a gradual down hill. The ever-enclosing jungle here was overwhelming and we couldn’t even see each other well. Giant trees were covered with strangling vines and life-sucking creepers; some dangling from the branches, some growing from the forks, most of them twisting and curling around the massive trunks and throwing  themselves from tree to tree and hanging like festoons. These evergreen jungles always appeared to have a life of their own, I strangely thought.

When I looked ahead to the point, Naw Taung seemed really worried and extremely nervous. He was slowly walking, avoiding the firm grassy middle of the narrow path, and carefully stepping on the softened mud edges on its sides, at the same time trying hard not to disturb the small trees and branches by the sides of the track.

“Soe Win, step exactly onto my footprints! Don’t touch anything. This area is extremely hot,” I’d been stepping exactly onto Naw Taung’s prints ahead and asked Soe Win behind me to do just that.

I also heard him relaying my serious warning back along the single file of men cautiously following him. I quietly hoped that the rest did the same as we were gradually getting out of thick canopy into a small level clearing ahead. Many small birds were singing in the tall trees attractively adorned with a wild profusion of colorful orchids. The pleasant scene almost made me forget about the ambush and damn land mines and start remembering my old school days till the disturbing noise of a sudden explosion shocked me out of my nostalgia.

“Boom,” first I heard the muffled sound of a soft explosion and then saw a small cloud of smoke and dirt hanging low on the track well behind me when I turned around. The sound of explosion from the plastic land mine was much softer than expected as the surrounding jungle had suppressed the noise.

“Don’t move! Stay right where you are! Don’t run! Don’t even move!” Naw Taung already in the clearing had shouted back at the top of his voice and all of us didn’t even dare to wink, let alone move, as we all knew very well that they sometimes planted a cluster of small mines off the track just to catch a few panicky runners after the first explosion.

“Who’s got the hit?” I yelled out to the back.

Immediately someone from the rear replied, “Corporal! I think, he stepped on the mine!”

“Jesus Christ! Zaw Moe, go check him out. Just be careful!” Naw Taung sort of ordered me.

I  yelled back at him, “Why don’t you fucking go look for yourself,” as I didn’t really like the idea of seeing someone with a serious injury.

I also didn’t want to be a brave boy on a mined track. Losing your foot was just one step away, I reckoned, and that thought had scared the hell out of me. I was so frightened I even thought at that moment - after all, I might be a coward.

“You are the squad leader! You are our section leader now if Corporal goes down. Come on, be brave, soldier boy!” he was even mocking me at a rather serious time. I sometimes hated his strange sense of humor.

But I eventually gathered all my courage, strangely overcame my deep fear,  and started walking back cautiously, or overcautiously, the way I came along the narrow track. After walking past Soe Win and two others, who were standing still like lifeless statues on the track, I reached the point where the Corporal was sitting up with his legs stretched and leaning his back against a small tree by the side of the narrow path and moaning and groaning in rather deeply painful voice.

He looked up at me with wide eyes and painfully asked, “Zaw Moe, what happened to me, Zaw Moe?”

“You stepped on a mine, I think,” I gave him the direct answer he didn’t like.

“I didn’t. I was always very careful,” he was in a complete denial of what just happened to him.

“You did, corporal! You just stepped on a soapbox mine and you are now bleeding real bad,” bluntly I told him again.

His right foot was almost gone right under his eyes, but he was still in a denial. How strange the way human mind sometimes worked? You could see it and you could still refuse to accept seeing it. Contrary to what we thought of him before, he was a brave man. He neither screamed nor cried even with the sight of his bloodied and hopelessly damaged foot right before his eyes. The shredded pieces of canvas top and torn rubber sole from his Yugo jungle boot were just hanging on whatever flesh and bones left of his right foot just below the ankle. I almost felt like throwing up just by seeing the ugly wound.

The red blood was now seeping through the mess, mixing with the loose dirt from the explosion, and slowly forming a little muddy puddle of dirty pinkish color in the shallow hole where the small, plastic soapbox-like, anti-personnel mine was planted. The pressure-activated, Chinese made mine was skillfully laid and hidden beneath the dugout and re-laid layer of green grass right in the grassy middle of the track. Naw Taung had saved me, Soe Win, and two others, but not the Corporal.

“One wrong step and the result is quite ugly,” I thought to myself. I even felt a strange tingling in my right foot by seeing his badly damaged foot.

“He’s bleeding too much. We should stop the bleeding,” suggested Naw Taung who had quietly followed me from behind. I was glad he was here to help me and he knew very well that I now needed him badly. He even had his field dressing kit ready in his hand.

“How?” then I remembered the first aid lesson we had for the snakebites.

I took off my backpack, pulled out the standard army-issued manila rope and cut a couple of foot off with my bayonet and kneeled down beside him. He twitched painfully and angrily yelled at me when I started tying the rope tightly around his leg just above the ankle. But he quietened down once he was aware of what I was trying to do and also the tourniquet finally stopped the heavy bleeding.

“Are you okay? Are you still in pain now?” I tried to ask the Corporal the bleeding obvious but he didn’t answer me back.

“He’s passed out, bastard. Now we have to carry him,” Naw Taung reminded me in disappointment and I remembered the Chairman Mao’s famous guerrilla warfare strategy that an injured soldier was a heavier burden than a dead one was to his comrades.

After Naw Taung had spread the Tetracycline powder and placed the gauze-compress and bandaged his foot-wound, we cut a seven-foot long piece of almost solid bamboo stock and made a hammock with one of our rubberized ground sheets. All of us then took turns to carry him in the hammock slowly back to the base. It took us over three days to get back but he died of excessive blood loss, without any single one of us even knowing, on the third day in the hammock just before we reached the base.

We rolled his body tight in the same groundsheet he died in and buried him in a six by two foot hole on the reverse slope with a small platoon ceremony. After that I, a sixteen-year-old runaway boy turned a boy soldier, became the de facto leader of the nine men strong section as Sarge took over our section himself. They radioed his death back to the battalion and his name and rank and private-serial-number became one entry in the list of mounting casualties from our struggling outfit. We all thought that death was better for him as he had mentioned many times previously that he’d rather prefer to be dead than alive as a cripple.

Innocent-looking Chinese-made soapbox mines and their Burmese soldier victims.

Related posts at following links:
Reliving 1973 Kachin Christmas Eve In New York City