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Commando who died of ‘heatstroke’ was “forced to eat earth” before going into convulsions

The truth behind the tragic deaths from so-called heatstroke during Commando training earlier this month is being challenged by a hard-hitting television documentary tonight (Friday).

Público reports that RTP’s Sexta Feira às 9 has been told that one of the dead soldiers was forced to eat earth before he went into convulsions.

Twenty-year-old Hugo Abreu was the first of two young men who died following gruelling exercises in over 42º heat during the 127th Commando training course at Alcohchete on September 4 (click here).

The Army has since opened an inquiry – but investigations by the RTP team suggest this could be part of a cover-up.

Abreu’s mother Angêla has accused army chiefs of “hiding the truth”, says Público, and identifying a sergeant at the base, called Rodrigues, who can give the answers about what really happened to her son.

Sexta às 9’s report will be carrying interviews with a number of other soldiers who attended the course.

Says Público: “They talk anonymously, and confirm the (Abreu) family’s story.

“One of them describes moments following the strong indisposition of his colleague: Hugo Abreu was “close to losing consciousness, with immense breathing difficulties and was forced to swallow earth”.

“The lance-corporal died at 21.45 that day in the infirmary set up for the course”, the paper adds, stressing that “according to RTP, INEM medical rescue staff arrived seven hours after the young man lost consciousness.”

For now, the army appears to be sticking to the original storygiven to the press – saying only that it is “waiting for the conclusions of investigations that will determine whether proceedings complied with what was expected, whether there were justifiable alterations and whether there were alterations that, if not justified, could imply disciplinary or criminal issues”.

Público explains that the official line was that Abreu had been “removed from instruction and transferred to the infirmary where he remained under observation. His clinical situation worsened after dinner and the doctor decided he should be removed to hospital though he died before being transferred”.

The 127th Commando training course was temporarily suspended after the death of a second solder, and hospitalisations of another nine recruits.

When it was reopened, 17 soldiers (one officer, four sergeants and 12 privates) said they would not be rejoining, asking instead to be allowed to return to their units (click here).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com