By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
ABC newsman Chris Cuomo narrowly escaped harm in Iraq yesterday when a roadside explosion crippled the armored Humvee he was riding in but the shrapnel failed to fully penetrate the vehicle.
"I got very, very lucky," Cuomo, 36, said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. He praised "the greatness of the soldiers" involved, saying: "I know if I had been there with any other group of individuals, I would not be able to have this conversation."
The harrowing episode unfolded almost one year after another roadside bomb in Iraq badly injured ABC anchor Bob Woodruff, who is still recovering from head wounds.
Two CBS crew members were killed and correspondent Kimberly Dozier was seriously wounded in a car-bomb explosion in Iraq in May.
Cuomo, the news anchor of "Good Morning America" and the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo, was embedded with a U.S. military police unit in Baghdad when his convoy of four Humvees responded to a report of a burning Iraqi police car. On the side of the road, the unit noticed some bodies, which turned out to be booby-trapped with an improvised bomb. The device exploded with massive force.
"It rocked the entire vehicle, blew out the tires on two of the vehicles, destroyed much of the glass, rocked the vehicles in a very, very big way," Cuomo said on "Good Morning America." "A piece of shrapnel was barely stopped by this armored door. It came within fractions of an inch of going through the entire vehicle."
The unit came under heavy small-arms fire, and Cuomo was trapped inside his disabled Humvee. He said another military unit arrived and provided cover while his and another crippled vehicle were towed to safety. No soldiers were wounded in the incident.
A hubcap-size piece of shrapnel broke the glass of one of the Humvees, creating a five-inch indentation in the armor, Cuomo said. He said his vehicle had less armored plating and that the situation could have been "catastrophic" if it had been hit by shrapnel of that size.
What impressed him most, Cuomo said, was the way the gunner, still spitting glass from a shattered window, sprang into action without complaint. Capt. Jay Shama of the 410th Military Police Company told Cuomo the unit would return to the same area today.
"This is their routine," Cuomo said. "They go out day after day while people are trying to blow them up. . . . It's one thing to question the mission. To question the soldiers is completely without basis."
ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said Cuomo had volunteered for the week-long assignment.
"For a news division that's been through what we've been through, every single person who goes to Iraq -- every cameraman, every sound man, every correspondent, every anchor -- we don't ever stop worrying about them," Schneider said. "It reminds you once again that Iraq is a terribly dangerous place, but a place where we owe it to our audience to tell the story of what soldiers go through on a daily basis."
Asked if he was still shaken up, Cuomo said: "I'm trying not to deal with it. I'm trying to deal with it like a soldier, just do my job."