Australian Army 'Fear Management' Exercise so Tough it Caused Mental Illness

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By Dominic Gover | December 10, 2013 12:42 AM EST

Gallons of fake blood look all too real for bus driver Vasko Petrovski in Australia (Reuters)

A bus driver who unwittingly drove into the middle of a "tough guy" military exercise in Australia has won huge compensation after being so traumatised by the experience that he became mentally ill.

Vasko Petrovski got uncontrollable shakes when he saw what he thought was a dead soldier whose brains had been splashed all over the ground in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. He also saw an overturned minibus with a figure slumped over the steering wheel and one eye hanging from its socket.

The scene was completed by what appeared to be corpses scattered on the ground, blood, "body parts" and a woman who was begging him for help.

The woman was an actress. Petrovski had been the unwitting victim of an Australian Defence Force training mission in "fear-management techniques".

The Yugoslav Army veteran, who was driving a group of Australian marines, thought he had stumbled on to the aftermath of a massacre in which a gunman had slaughtered his victims with a machinegun. Petrovski believed the gunman was still at large until a member of the team on the exercise revealed that it was all faked - but by then it was too late.

In the aftermath of the incident, he developed mental illness because of the shock and stress.

In court, the Australian Defence Force disputed his claim and said that he had helped load tomato sauce - the fake blood - on to his bus before setting off. The defence also pointed to his gambling debts.

But Justice Anthony Besanko awarded him $400,000 (£220,000) and said that his reactions were consistent with his claim that he had suffered a shock reaction. 

''The simulated accident scene must have looked particularly graphic and arresting at night,'' said Besanko.

''The plaintiff was genuinely shocked by what he saw.  It is more probable than not that he was not given an adequate and proper warning of what to expect.''

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