Family demands answers after soldier’s sudden death at Tacama

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Dead: GDF Corporal Leroy Thom

Days after Corporal Leroy Thom of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) died during training at Tacama in Region Ten, his family members are now left with many unanswered questions.

Thom, 30, a member of the 2nd Infantry Battalion and resident of Blueberry Hill in Linden, suddenly collapsed and died on Friday evening while in training at the Colonel John Clarke Military School at Tacama. News of his demise was relayed to the family at about 23:30h that evening, but family members are contending there are more questions than answers.

At the time, he was undergoing training on the Section Commander’s Course.

Following his demise, the GDF had stated that Thom had complained of feeling unwell during a routine training event, and had been taken to the Medical Centre where he was attended to by a registered nurse and medics.

After his condition had deteriorated, a request was made for a medevac, and a team of medical specialists from the Georgetown Public Hospital was air-dashed to the training school. Upon arrival, the GDF said, all efforts to resuscitate Thom proved futile, and the soldier was consequently pronounced dead.

A Board of Inquiry will be convened to investigate the circumstances surrounding this corporal’s death, the GDF has said.

However, this publication interviewed the late corporal’s wife, Caffeya Forde, on Sunday, and she said that the last time she had seen her husband alive was on Tuesday. She related that her husband had left Tacama on Monday to look after his driver’s licence, and had spent that night at home.

“I saw him around 10:30 on Tuesday morning…he was on the section commander course for him to be promoted to substantive corporal; at least that is what he told me. The training started on March 9th and would have ended on June 15th. On Tuesday, he told me he was going to GRA to look after the licence, and then he was going to go back to work,” she detailed.

Forde said she had heard from Thom on Tuesday when he was heading back to Tacama, and then again on Friday. She said he had sent her a message on Friday morning at around 4:29h, telling her that he was heading to Tacama to start training.

“The message said, ‘I am boarding to go now, and I am coming back out on Sunday’. So, I sent him back a message and I said, ‘OK, be careful, we love you’. At 7:25h, he texted back and said, ‘I love you too baby’, and that was it. My husband had no medical condition, and we talked on Tuesday and he never told me that he was feeling sick,” Forde is contending. “Also, he is not the type of husband that would hide anything from me,” she said.

Forde said the GDF did not inform her that something was wrong with her husband until around 23:30h on Friday. She explained that a friend who was working at Tacama at the time contacted her at about noon on Friday and informed her that something serious had happened to her husband.

“The person called me and asked me if my husband has any medical condition, and I said, ‘No, why you ask?’ She said that my husband was in Tacama lying down stiff, stiff; he wasn’t moving, and these people (GDF ranks) not doing anything to help him,” Forde detailed.

“When I heard that, I started calling around to see who I could get on to hear something. I didn’t hear anything until after 11 the Friday night,” she said.

“Three officers came by me. One identified himself, and he told me that my husband complained of feeling unwell and he fell, and they took him to the medical centre and they tried to bring him back. And when they saw his pulse was dropping, they called for a helicopter for him…,” Forde detailed.

“When I went on Saturday to identify his body, I learned that his time of death was 21:15h, but I was called by the person who told me something serious is wrong before lunch,” she explained.

“One of my husband’s colleagues told me that they were on the range to throw grenades, and my husband shouted out, ‘Ahh! My foot! I can’t feel, I can’t feel my foot!’, and then he collapsed”, she explained.

The woman said her husband’s sudden death has severely impacted her and their four-year-old son. She is still in disbelief.

“Words cannot express how I feel. Leroy was my everything. I am the only child of my mother, and last year my mother lost her foot. Leroy was that foot, and he replaced that foot. He was there through everything. He is the breadwinner of our family. We have a child, and Leroy didn’t even get to build a house or put his family how he wanted to. Nothing he really got a chance to do,” she said.

“This is so short and sudden. The GDF didn’t even call me, even if it was to say he fell, he hit his head or something, that I shouldn’t worry and they will try to see what they can do. Nothing! I found out he died at 11 in the night,” she reiterated.

A post-mortem examination is expected to be conducted on Thom’s body today.