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N.H. native killed in Iraq dismantling munitions

MANCHESTER, N.H. --A Berlin native who dismantled explosives in Iraq for an Army program was killed on the job Thursday, the Army said.

Donald Neil, 44, of Marston Mills, Mass., was working on ammunition at a military base outside Baghdad, said his sister, Lisa Couture, of Berlin. The ammunition detonated, and Neil died instantly. The blast also injured two others, she said.

Neil was a senior supervisor with Tetra Tech Inc., of Pasadena, Calif. It was his second tour in Iraq as a civilian. He had previously served in the Army for more than 20 years.

The Coalition Munitions Clearance Program, based in Alabama, said the accident was under investigation. The program, part of the Army Corps of Engineers, is responsible for handling and destroying weapons captured in Iraq. More than 400,000 tons of munitions have been destroyed.

Couture said her brother was scheduled to return home last month, but decided to stay several more months after receiving a promotion.

"He felt that he could help out because he knew his job and (the troops) could be safer with him there, rather than with him sitting home doing nothing," she said. "He used to say, 'The more I can blow it up, the less that can shoot at us.'"

Neil graduated from Berlin High School in 1979. After his Army service, he took civilian jobs involving ordinance and blasting, Couture said.

Neil was survived by his wife, Cynthia, and two children, 14-year-old Mary and 12-year-old Thomas, as well as many family members still living in the Berlin area, Couture said. He will be buried in Berlin alongside his parents.

"The kids are pretty devastated," she said.


Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader,