September 26th, 2016

‘Neglect’ caused Solihull soldier’s death inquiry rules

THE MINISTRY of Defence (MOD) has apologised for the death of a Solihull Army Reservist after he died following a training exercise.

Corporal James Dunsby, originally from the borough, tragically died alongside Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Lance Corporal Edward Maher tragically died while taking part in a navigation exercise on the Brecon Beacons in July 2013.

In an inquest held in Solihull, the coroner ruled the three men died as a result of hyperthermia, otherwise known as heat exhaustion and heatstroke – with Lance Corporal Maher and Lance Corporal Roberts died on the Welsh mountainside, while Corporal James Dunsby was evacuated and died in hospital two weeks later from multiple organ failure.

The three men collapsed in soaring temperatures on the hottest day of the year in 2013 whilst carrying 22kg of equipment after organisers failed to follow MoD code of practice and call off the exercise.

Despite all three men’s tracking devices registering them as stationary this was not noticed by those monitoring the system – meaning help did not reach the men for up to two and a half hours.

Presiding over matters Birmingham and Solihull Coroner, Louise Hunt, said had the exercise been called off the three men would have survived.

Ms Hunt said the mens’ deaths were caused by ‘neglect’ and a series of errors including inadequate risk assessments, a lack of understanding of heat illnesses, and use a tracker system that was ‘not fit for purpose’.

In a statement from a Minister for Defence, Penny Mordaunt said the MOD and Armed Forces accepted the failings identified by the coroner and apologised for the deaths of the men.

She added: “In response to our own and the Health and Safety Executive’s investigations we have made a number of changes to the way this exercise and similar exercises are conducted.

“We will ensure everything possible is being done to reduce the risk to personnel who undertake these types of exercise and

to try to prevent a reoccurrence of these terrible events.”

As a result of the tragedy, improvement have been made to the preparatory training Reserves have to undertake, a review of the risk assessment process has been carried out, and a new tracker system that allows two-way communication has been implemented.

Ms Mordaunt added: “It will always be necessary to train and test our military personnel to the highest possible level so

that they can meet the challenges to national security that we face both in the UK and overseas.

“Achieving this end does involve individuals having to push themselves and take some risk.

“However, as an organisation we must ensure that this is balanced with the need to ensure these risks are effectively mitigated.

“In this case, we did not do this and we accept full responsibility for these tragic deaths.

“We are determined to learn the lessons.”

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