EYEWITNESS: RICHARD PURSSELL
ACCOUNT OF RACHEL CORRIE's DEATH
Richard Purssell is a British citizen from Brighton, England. A Construction Worker, he was born on 12 October 1971.
"I am Richard Purssell of the United Kingdom. I am here in Rafah to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian people and take non-violent direct action to confront the illegal Israeli occupation. I am making this statement at 11:30 on the night after the incident.
"On 16 March 2003 myself, Rachel Corrie, and Greg were acting as human shields at the well in Tel al Sultan. We received a call at 2.30from other ISM activists who were working in the Hyy es Salaam area that bulldozers had been spotted. We arrived ten minutes later at the area, which was near both to houses we were protecting and houses which had been destroyed in the previous week. Using a megaphone and banners to identify ourselves as international nonviolent activists we moved forward to confront the bulldozers.
"For two hours we attempted at great risk to ourselves to obstruct and frustrate the bulldozers in their work. One activist from the U.S was trapped underneath barbed wire. The bulldozers seemed to be concentrating on ploughing up the land in front of the buildings whilst making occasional runs at houses. There were two bulldozers one marked 94 serial number 949623 the other 95 serial no. 949645. There was one tank but I do not recall its number. I noted these numbers prior to the incident.
"At approximately 1645 a bulldozer began making a straight run at a house which I now know to belong to a doctor [Samir]. At this point the majority of the group were positioned around a wrecked building. We were all within 70 metres of each other. I was to the left of the ruined building and to the right of Dr. [Samir]ís house. Rachel was approximately 15 metres in front of me.
"The ground was level and the light was good, I had a good view of everything which happened. Rachel was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket with reflective strips (the type worn by construction workers for high visibility and the avoidance of accidents). Rachel stood to confront the bulldozer and it approached her at about five or six miles an hour. The blade on the bulldozer was dipped into the ground and was scooping up soil.
"As the bulldozer came nearer the pile mounted up. Rachel climbed up the pile and at the one stage was looking into the cabin window. There is no way that the driver could not have known she was there. The bulldozer continued driving forwards and Rachel turned round to face in my direction.
"She began to slide down the pile, however as soon as her feet touched the ground for some reason she fell forward. Maybe her foot was caught or the weight of the soil pushed her forward. At this point the panic on her face was obvious.
"We were all shouting, screaming and gesturing by this stage. The earth was totally pushed over her, engulfing her. She was lost to my sight. I noticed that the driver had not lifted the blade. The machine rolled straight over her and continued for a little way. It then reversed over her and retreated about twenty metres. Rachel was left in its tracks, bleeding from her mouth and twisted.
"The tank came over to where she was briefly and then retreated to the border fence with the two bulldozers. At no point did any member of the Israeli forces inquire as to Rachelís well-being or offer any assistance.
"Eventually we were able to call an ambulance and one arrived shortly. Rachel was taken to hospital in Rafah, where I heard she had died.
"I certify that this is a true account to the best of my recollection."
16 March 2003