MIRACLE soldier Dean Middleton today told how he was “inches from death” after surviving a massive roadside bomb blast which claimed the life of his comrade.
The 26-year-old was on a routine patrol in the Bowri desert in Central Helmand, Afghanistan, when his armoured vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
Corporal Steve Dunn, who was also travelling in the Jackal, was thought to have been sat close to where the bomb struck and suffered fatal wounds. Cpl Middleton was thrown from his gun position by the force of the blast and knocked unconscious.
Airlifted to a field hospital, the brave para clung to life despite being left with horrific head injuries.
Flown back to Britain, he then underwent a life-saving operation to remove a section of his skull to reduce swelling on his brain, before spending weeks in an induced coma in a bid to improve his condition.
The SAFC fan was forced to endure another major op when his wound became infected.
But Cpl Middleton, who serves with the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, has amazed medics by battling back from the brink of death and, after months of treatment, is now well enough to be home with his parents.
“I don’t know how I survived it,” said the soldier, from Parkside, Seaham.
“It was just luck. I was on top cover and was flung from the vehicle. “The IED must have been more or less directly underneath Steve.
“I was stood with the machine gun and he was to the rear of me.
“I could only have been inches off being killed myself.”
Cpl Middleton, awaiting an operation to have a metal plate inserted in his skull, said it was a “miracle” he survived the tragedy.
Cpl Dunn, 27, from Gateshead, was attached to the battalion from another regiment when he died in the blast.
Cpl Middleton, who has served in the Armed Forces for eight-and-a-half-years, has no recollection of the explosion which virtually destroyed the Jackal.
“I can’t remember anything about what happened. It was over in a second.
“The IED exploded and that was it. I have to rely on what other people tell me about it.
“I suppose I was a bit naive. Like a lot of young soldiers. I thought it couldn’t happen to me.
“It’s always in the back of your mind that you could be injured, but you convince yourself it’s never going to happen.”
Despite his ordeal, the former pupil at Seaham School of Technology, who was just two months into his second tour of Afghanistan when he was wounded, said he hopes to continue his career in the military.
“I’ll go before a medical board, who will tell me what I will and won’t be able to do,” said Cpl Middleton, who used to box for his regiment and was sent a signed shirt by Sunderland AFC while in hospital.
“I know my family have been through a lot. It must have been terrible for them when I was in a coma.
“I don’t want to have to put them through that again, but I do want to stay in the army.
“Hopefully, before the end of the year, I’ll also have the operation to insert the titanium plate in my head to replace the piece of skull that had to be taken out when it became infected.
“I’ve spent a long time in rehabilitation, but I’m feeling much better now and the doctors are confident I’ll make a good recovery.”