8:50am Tuesday 30th October 2012 in Local
Man injured driving Iraqi bomber off road tackles obstacle course
A BODYGUARD who survived an attempted suicide bomb attack in Iraq is facing his toughest challenge since suffering devastating injuries in the high-speed crash.
David De Souza was working for private security company Aegis in Tikrit when he bravely intercepted a suicide bomber’s vehicle as it sped towards his convoy.
Mr De Souza drove out of the convoy in his 4×4 to block the suicide bomber and to protect a company boss who was travelling in a vehicle in front of him.
He rammed into the suicide bomber’s vehicle at high speed, smashing into it before coming off the road and rolling over six times.
The incident, on December 20, 2007, left Mr De Souza with a brain haemorrhage and a broken back.
He is now unable to work because of memory problems caused by his brain injury and is also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
A year ago, the 36-year-old, who lives in Ashwood, Kearsley, was unable to run more than mile, but next month he will take part in Tough Mudder, a gruelling 12-mile obstacle course in Malpas, Cheshire, in memory of his niece, Maddie Rose Gooch.
The challenge will be both a physical and mental test, as Mr De Souza suffers from his post traumatic stress disorder and “catastrophic thinking”, which means he often imagines the worst-case scenario, which includes events relating to his 35-year-old wife, Lisa, and their children.
Mr De Souza, who has two sons, three-year-old Alfie, and Archie, aged 13 weeks, said: “One day, when a car backfired, I was on the ground shaking.
“I have a psychologist who is helping me with coping strategies. If it’s crowded, I will panic and I have to slow down and take deep breaths and remember I am not in Iraq.”
Mr De Souza served in 23 Pioneer Regiment for six years before becoming an engineer, then signed up to work for different companies in Iraq, where he has protected workmen.
He once protected Gordon Brown and American Pie actress Tara Reid when they went to Iraq to visit the troops.
Mr De Souza said: “On the day I was injured I saw the suspect vehicle coming in from the left and it just wasn’t stopping.
“I was doing 120kmph when we hit. My vehicle rolled six times.
“I don’t remember anything — I just remember waking up feeling hot and I touched my face and it was covered in blood and I couldn’t see. There was a man in my car missing — he was 100 metres down the road and he only had a broken nose.”
The suicide bomber died but everyone else survived the attack.
It was Mr De Souza’s 10th brush with death in Iraq. In another incident he was a passenger in a car driven by an Iraqi driver who died when they drove over a roadside bomb.
Mr De Souza had only been seeing Lisa, then his girlfriend, for six weeks when he was injured in the suicide bomber’s attack.
She said: “He phoned me the day before he was injured and said he would have no communication and if I heard from him he’d been injured.
“I was with my friends the next day and I saw an Iraqi number phoning. I answered and he had been injured but was okay and said not to ask any questions.
“I just collapsed on my mate’s floor.
“When I went to meet him at Manchester Airport I saw him and I thought ‘this isn’t the man who went away’.
“He was shaking and he looked like the devil because his eyes were all red and bloodshot.”
She said his injury so early in their relationship was a make-or-break situation.
Mrs De Souza, who worked as a hairdresser, quit work to help her husband when their son Alfie was younger.
“To look at David there’s nothing wrong with him, but it’s the cognitive side he has problems with.
“Everything has to be written down on post-it notes or he will forget.
“He will think he has answered questions when he hasn’t and sometimes you will have a conversation and, within 20 minutes, you will be having the same conversation again. It can be totally frustrating,” she said.
Despite his lucky escape, Mr De Souza wishes he could return to his job.
He said: “Because of my injury, my reactions have slowed down. I couldn’t do the job now but I would go back tomorrow if I could.”
The family will celebrate Mr De Souza’s achievement on what would have been Maddie Rose’s first birthday in December.
Baby Maddie Rose, the daughter of Lee and Sarah Gooch, from Stalybridge, died when she was just 18 days old on December 15 last year in Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, of congenital heart disease and other heart defects.
Mr De Souza is raising money for Alder Hey Hospital’s appeal to fund research and buy equipment.
Visit justgiving.com/David-De-Souza to donate.