Flag-draped caskets holding the remains of two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan were carried across the tarmac of Kandahar Airfield Friday, as about 1,000 mourners stood at attention.
The ramp ceremony was held at dawn, honouring Master Warrant Officer Mario Mercier, a member of 2nd Bataillon, Royal 22nd Regiment and Master Cpl. Christian Duchesne, of the 5th Field Ambulance.
Both were killed Wednesday, along with an Afghan interpreter, when a roadside bomb struck their LAV-III armoured vehicle in southern Afghanistan.
"It's a scene that is difficult to imagine. People were not panicking but it was so serious, we didn't know if other mines would be there," said Radio Canada reporter Patrice Roy, 44.
Roy was in the same vehicle when the blast ripped it apart. He escaped serious injures but his cameraman, Charles Dubois, had to have the lower part of his right leg removed.
"He's an exceptionally good person, a strong person," said Roy, still visibly shaken by the violence.
The deaths of Mercier and Duchesne followed the first major combat operation in Zhari district -- about 50 kilometres west of Kandahar city -- conducted by Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, part of the Quebec-based Royal 22nd Regiment popularly known as the Van Doos.
No Canadians were injured in the actual combat and soldiers took control of a strategic hill.
Canadian troops then discovered a massive IED that created a 20-metre-high fireball when detonated. Another undiscovered IED caused the deaths.
"I was writing my standup just seconds before the blast and it was a huge, huge blast... I was pushed," said Roy.