Maine reservist died after humvee swarmed by Iraqis

An Army reservist from Kennebunk who died in Iraq this month was killed after an angry crowd of Iraqis surrounded the humvee he and another soldier were in and set it on fire, according to a published report.

Army 1st Sgt. Christopher Coffin, 51, died July 1 while his unit was outside of Baghdad. Conflicting reports about his death have prompted the Army to launch an internal investigation that could take months to complete. The Army initially told Coffin’s wife, Betsy, that he was killed when his vehicle ran into a ditch. But the Army also reported that a member of Coffin’s unit, the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, died when a convoy was ambushed.

Time magazine this week reported that the vehicle in which Coffin and a 19-year-old comrade were riding that day was possibly run off the road by an Iraqi vehicle barreling directly towards it. The magazine, citing Coffin family members and U.S. government officials, says an angry Iraqi crowd swarmed the vehicle when it was in a ditch.

Soldiers in a following humvee pulled over to help Coffin and the other soldier, who were both badly hurt, but they too were quickly surrounded by the crowd and the humvee was set on fire, the magazine reported in an issue that comes out Monday.

“It took a third American team rushing in, firing rifles into the air, to scatter the crowd and rescue the four trapped soldiers,” the article stated. “A helicopter was able to get in to try to rush Chris and his injured truck mate to a medical facility. But Chris died from what the military described as ‘massive head trauma.”‘

Coffin’s wife also told Time that she still finds loving notes hidden around their Kennebunk condo that her husband wrote to her before he left for Iraq.

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