October 2019

Brandon Pinson, one of FSD’s international technical advisors in Iraq, was tragically killed last month following the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED). The accident took place close to the village of Tel al-Shear, south of Mosul.

On 3 September 2019, Brandon Pinson and another international technical advisor arrived on the minefield at approximately 7:30 am. They had worked at the same site the day before. They were rendering safe a line of IEDs that had been identified and marked by a team of FSD deminers the week before. These IEDs were laid by the Islamic State in a field near the village of Tel al-Shear, that they occupied from 2014 until the end of 2016.

According to witnesses, the explosion occurred at 8:11 am, killing Brandon Pinson instantly. None of the other staff members present in the area were harmed.

map 2

Brandon Pinson, an American national, was an experienced explosive ordnance technician. He had been working for two years in Iraq, the last five months of which for FSD, and had rendered safe many IEDs in other contaminated areas since his arrival. He had already largely contributed to the aim of making the land safe again for the affected population. Brandon was very appreciated by his colleagues in Erbil and will be greatly missed. He left behind a wife and two young children.

brandon pinson with natinoal staff

Due to the magnitude of the explosion, all direct evidence was destroyed. We will therefore never have a definite answer as to what caused the accident. Four hypotheses have however been evoked in FSD’s internal investigation. First, the IED could have been a device of a new type, with a switch mechanism unknown by the deminer; second, this IED could have had an over sensitive switch mechanism, maybe due to corrosion; third, Brandon Pinson could have stumbled or fallen on the device, causing it to function; fourth, he might have made an error in the render safe procedure.

The IED involved was most certainly what deminers call a “pot charge”, taking the form of a light plastic container. These typically contain 5 to 7kg of explosives. This is enough to destroy a car.

pot charge

All FSD operations were temporarily halted in Iraq following the accident. The staff has been offered psychological counseling. Before they went back to work on the minefield, they completed a period of refresher training.

This incident was FSD’s third fatal demining accident in ten years.

brandon’s evaluation

FSD’s mine action program in Iraq is supported by the US Department of State, Global Affairs Canada, the City of Geneva, the Canton of Geneva, GGL Austria, Commune de Cologny and other private donors and foundations.