Ex-soldier claims damages after being shot in eye during paintball

A FORMER soldier is suing a Scottish paintball firm for up to £400,000 after he was shot in the face and lost the sight in one eye.

Allan Weir was shot from less than 6ft away by a paintball pellet travelling at around 280ft per second, causing his right eyeball to “burst”.

Weir, 28, who has two children, has struggled to find work since the horrific incident and says he still suffers intense pain from the injury.

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The former Scots Guardsman, from Edinburgh, was working as a marshal at the paintball firm in 2008 when a fellow worker shot at him, not realising the gun was loaded.

Calvin Blyth was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of culpable and reckless conduct and sentenced to 150 hours’ community service.

But Weir is now suing APE Paintball, based in Ratho, near Edinburgh, at the Court of Session for compensation.

He alleges the firm failed to provide marshals with proper training in the handling of paintball weapons.

The company strongly denies the claims and alleges Weir sparked the incident by “shooting” Blyth in the leg with compressed air.

Weir says he has fallen heavily into debt since the shooting. He said: “I can’t work. I’m finding it hard to adjust to life. I can’t even drive anymore.”

The physical consequences are just as serious, with Weir claiming he can do little more than make out vague shapes with his right eye.

“I can’t focus on anything. Bright light tends to bother me, I get migraines if I’m in the light too long,” he said.

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Even eating cold food causes intense pain in his damaged eye, he says, a result of the nerve damage caused by the paintball.

The amount of damages sought from APE has not been agreed. But last year Anthony Phee, from Manchester, won £400,000 in damages after he was blinded in one eye after being struck by a ball at Niddry Castle Golf Club in Winchburgh, West Lothian.

Weir said he was suing the company because “we weren’t given proper training, it was a shambles”.

Weir had only started work at the paintball site on 6 September, 2008, the day before he was shot. He had been discharged from the Scots Guards after suffering a knee injury.

He was helping Blyth and another workmate clean the weapons for customers, who currently pay £55 for a day’s skirmishing session.

Weir said he was not wearing a safety mask at the time because he was in the “safe area”.

Admitting it “wasn’t the smartest thing to do”, Weir said he fired an unloaded paintball gun at Blyth’s leg, having first made sure it was not loaded.

The court heard that Blyth, who had been working at the site for 14 months, responded by picking up a nearby gun and shooting at Weir’s face without checking if the gun was loaded.

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“It felt like being hit by a hammer. I thought my eye had been burst,” he said.

Doctors found that his iris had been torn by the impact and there was no hope of restoring his sight. He underwent surgery last year to deal with chronic headaches and has only recently had stitches taken out of the eye.

Returning to the army has been ruled out because of the eye injury, and even everyday tasks such as using a computer and driving are beyond him.

“If I use a computer for more than 15 minutes I get headaches,” he said.

Weir, who looks after his sons – aged eight and 15 months – full-time, is now £14,000 in debt.

“I just want to get my life back on track,” he said.

But the manager of the paintball firm, who is the defender in the court action, said Weir must take responsibility for his actions.

Gordon Craig said: “If he had been wearing his safety mask it would never have occurred. He was fully aware of that. It’s a load of nonsense that there wasn’t proper training in place.”

He said: “I now tell people as part of my safety briefing that one of my staff was badly injured in the eye.”