Six Paratroopers Miss Stadium; One Left Dangling on Lamppost

When eight soldiers from the elite Brigade 911 paratrooper unit exited a helicopter at about 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening during a rehearsal for today’s National Games opening ceremony, it was supposed to be a routine exercise in which they all landed safely on Olympic Stadium’s artificial turf.

Only two made it.

A paratrooper, left, veers off course near the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, while another hangs from a lamppost on Sihanouk Boulevard, in still images from videos posted to Facebook.
A paratrooper, left, veers off course near the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, while another hangs from a lamppost on Sihanouk Boulevard, in still images from videos posted to Facebook.

The other six completely missed the 60,000-capacity stadium and were sent drifting above surrounding roads. While most managed to land on their feet among traffic, one was left hanging from a lamppost outside a gas station on Preah Sihanouk Boulevard—much to the amusement of onlookers and Facebook users once the photos went viral.

Chap Pheakdey, commander of Brigade 911, one of the best-trained units in the military, said the mishap was due to all six soldiers encountering “technical errors.”

“They landed in the opposite area from the stadium—onto the street —because there were technical errors,” he said, declining to divulge details on the multiple malfunctions.

“It’s a soldier’s decision when irregularities happen, they can decide to find a suitable area to land,” he said. “It was a coincidence that one of them landed on a lamppost.”

Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, blamed the blustery weather conditions for blowing the paratroopers off course.

“Please don’t worry. Tomorrow everything will be fine,” he said of the ceremony scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. today.

Srey Kouch, who sells televisions out of a shop opposite the gas station where the paratrooper was left dangling, said there was a sense of collective disbelief—and amusement —at the soldier’s misfortune.

“There were many people driving motorbikes and cars stopping to take videos and photos,” she said. “Some drivers were laughing at the soldier on the lamppost.”

“I was surprised,” she added. “I thought there was a film happening.”

odom@cambodiadaily.com

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