David De Souza suffered a broken back and a brain hemorrhage that left him temporarily blind after surviving a suicide bomb attack in Iraq
The former bodyguard used his jeep to block the path of an assassin driving a truck laden with explosives while he was on duty in the war-torn country
Mr De Souza, 36, has told how he is still struggling to recover from the effects of his nightmare ordeal five years on
PUBLISHED: 10:38, 15 November 2012 |
His eyes are bruised, bloodshot and haunted. But this is just the start of the injuries inflicted on this British bodyguard after surviving a suicide bomb attack in Iraq.
Former soldier David De Souza, 36, suffered a broken back, a severe head wound, and a brain hemorrhage that left him temporarily blind after he used his jeep to block the path of an assassin driving a truck laden with explosives while on protection duty in the war-torn country.
Mr De Souza, who has guarded high-profile clients from former PM Gordon Brown to U.S. actress Tara Reid, has told how he is still struggling to recover from the physical and psychological scars left by his ordeal five years on.
The then bodyguard was accompanying a wealthy industrialist to a power plant as part of a three-vehicle escort when the suicide bomber attempted to ram their convoy with his truck.
Mr De Souza, who was driving behind the car carrying the industrialist, accelerated to up to 100mph to block the Iraqi’s path to his client and take the brunt of the explosion before swerving around his vehicle as the truck exploded in a ball of flame.
The three-tonne Land Cruiser he was driving rolled over six times in the wake of the explosion – which left the bomber dead.
He was airlifted to hospital by Black Hawk helicopter to be treated for his life-threatening injuries, before being flown back to Britain nine days later.
Five years on, the father-of-two is still suffers with memory loss after the blast, and has not been able to work since.
Mr De Souza, from Manchester, has now told how his training for a gruelling obstacle course in memory of his wife’s late niece is helping him to rediscover his confidence and move on from the devastating explosion.
‘Because of my injuries, my reactions have slowed down and the brain damage I suffered has caused cognitive impairment and post-traumatic stress disorder,’ said Mr De Souza, from Radcliffe, who is now father to Alfie, three, and three-month-old baby Archie with wife Lisa.
David De Souza
‘I have a psychologist who is helping me, but one day when a car backfired I was on the ground shaking.
‘And if it’s a crowded street, I will panic and I have to slow down and take deep breaths and remember I am not in Iraq.’
‘This course has given me something to aim for,’ said Mr De Souza, who said he still suffers ‘catastrophic thinking’ that leaves him imagining terrifying worst-case scenarios revolving around his wife and young children.
‘A year ago I couldn’t run a mile but now I can run eight miles,’ he said.
‘I have to stop in between but I am at my fittest which has massively boosted my confidence.’
Mr De Souza, who protected high-profile clients including Gordon Brown and actress Tara Reid on visits to Iraq, still suffers from panic attacks and ‘catastrophic thinking’ as a result of the ordeal
Mr De Souza served as a private in 23 Pioneer Regiment before training as an engineer.
From 2004 he worked as a private security contractor in Iraq, protecting clients including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown as they visited the country to rally British troops.
He had been involved in 10 other incidents involving gunfire attacks before the suicide attack on December 20, 2007.
‘We got given a task to take a client to an American camp in Tikrit,’ he said.
‘Our vehicle tracking system was faulty and we had to replace it twice before it worked, so we all had an uneasy feeling about the whole job from the start.
‘Although no one normally wore helmets over there due to the extreme heat – we all wore them that day.’
David and his three-vehicle convoy negotiated various check points and got to within 20km of the venue when he saw the bomber’s truck speeding in from the left.
‘We had to protect the client who was in the middle vehicle,’ he said.
‘I was at the back and saw the bomber’s vehicle was coming from the left really fast. I moved onto that side to protect the client and take the brunt myself.
‘I was doing 120kph because over there you have to drive fast in case you’re shot at by snipers. I swerved to avoid the vehicle because it wasn’t stopping and it exploded, causing my land cruiser, to roll six times.
‘With all the equipment it is about a three tonne vehicle – really heavy.
‘I landed in a ditch before being knocked out,’ he said.
On duty: Mr De Souza, seen left in Iraq, and right in Oman in 1993, served as a soldier before becoming a private security contractor
A colleague in Mr De Souza’s car suffered a punctured lung and a broken arm and leg after being thrown from the vehicle.
Once back home hairdresser Lisa had to quit work to care for her husband as he battled back from his ordeal.
He began training last year to build his fitness so he can take part in Tough Mudder, a 12-mile obstacle course in Malpas, Cheshire on Saturday November 17.
All proceeds will go to the Alder Hey Hospital’s Imagine appeal, which raises money for research and equipment, in memory of Lisa’s niece who died at just 18 days old last year from an undetected heart problem.
Mrs De Souza said: ‘I’m so proud of David what he has achieved after what happened to him.
‘When I went to meet him at Manchester Airport after he came home I thought “this isn’t the man who went away”. He was shaking and he looked like the devil because his eyes were all red and bloodshot.
‘To look at David now there’s nothing wrong with him, but it’s the cognitive side he has problems with. Everything has to be written down on post-it notes or he will forget.’
‘He will think he has answered questions when he hasn’t and sometimes you will have a conversation and, within 20 minutes, you will be having the same conversation again.
‘It was make or break when he came home from the accident but things happened so fast that we just got on with it,’ she said.
To sponsor Mr De Souza, visit http://www.justgiving.com/David-De-Souza
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2233261/Face-suicide-bomb-victim-Hero-British-bodyguard-shows-horrendous-injuries-surviving-Iraq-blast.html#ixzz2CJNwBlHw