Thousands bid farewell to latest Canadian casualty in Afghanistan

Thousands of soldiers lined up on Kandahar Airfield Sunday evening to bid goodbye to a Canadian who died Saturday night.
Thousands of soldiers lined up on Kandahar Airfield Sunday evening to bid goodbye to a Canadian who died Saturday night.
Capt. Jonathan (Jon) Snyder was killed after falling into a well while on a security patrol in Zhari district. ((DND))

Capt. Jonathan Snyder of Penticton, B.C., fell into a well during a night-time patrol west of Kandahar, said Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Despite the efforts of other soldiers in the patrol, Snyder, 26, was pronounced dead at the NATO military hospital at Kandahar Airfield.

His body was loaded on a Canadian aircraft and is expected to be brought to the base in Trenton, Ont., within several days.

Snyder, a member of 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, was a mentor to the Afghan National Army, and Afghan soldiers joined the ramp ceremony.

"They fight side by side beside us and they are certainly affected by this," said Col. Jean-François Riffou, who is in charge of the mentoring program.

Canadian politicians mentioned Snyder's role in tributes released Sunday. "He will be remembered as someone who worked shoulder to shoulder with Afghans to help bring security and stability back to their country, a key part of Canada's focus on training Afghan forces," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

"Captain Snyder's contributions will not be forgotten. The role of training the Afghan National Army is a key part of bringing peace and stability to this troubled region," Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said.

Maj. Doug Friesen prayed for Snyder at the airfield. "Let the light of hope banish the dark night of death and despair, and may we rise to a new dawn where there be no more sorrow or suffering."

He was "a soldier with soul," his father David Snyder said.

Snyder's leadership under fire in a recent fight saved both Canadian and Afghan lives, said Maj. Robert Ritchie, commander of the Zhari district where the battle happened.

The force of coalition and Afghan soldiers "was taking heavy fire on three sides," when Snyder rallied the troops and led them safely. "Because of his heroic leadership under intense fire,  there are many Canadians and Afghans who are alive to fight tomorrow," Ritchie said. 

Riffou said Snyder and others are being considered for medals for their actions that day.

Snyder was on foot patrol in a field in Zhari district when he tumbled into an open well the Afghans call a kariz, said Thompson.

He would have been wearing at least 34 kilograms of equipment at the time, including a flak vest and helmet.

Thompson said the well Snyder was trapped in may have been as deep as 20 metres. The rest of his patrol tried desperately to rescue him as they radioed for help.

Snyder was the 85th Canadian soldier to die in the war-torn country since 2002.

He leaves behind a fiancée and his parents.

In a separate incident, three British soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber Sunday while patrolling in the Upper Sangin Valley.   

With files from the Canadian Press