Major inquest into death of two soldiers killed in tank explosion taking place in Solihull - The Solihull Observer

Major inquest into death of two soldiers killed in tank explosion taking place in Solihull

Solihull Editorial 6th Jul, 2018 Updated: 6th Jul, 2018   0

A MAJOR inquest into the deaths of two soldiers killed when a tank exploded following a training exercise is taking place in Solihull.

The three week process began on Monday (July 2) at the Civic Suite at Solihull Council House in which senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, was among those giving evidence.

Corporals Matthew Hatfield, 27, and Darren Neilson, 31, of the Royal Tank Regiment died after being injured when a tank exploded at the Castlemartin range in Pembrokeshire, South-West Wales, on June 14 last year.

The soldiers died when live charges were incorrectly stored inside the armoured vehicle, an inquest heard.

Warrant officer Stuart Lawson was also inside the Challenger 2 Tank at the time of the explosion.

He survived the blast but suffered severe burns and other life changing injuries.

The court heard today WO2 Lawson had requested to ride in the tank on a ‘guest shoot’ during a live fire exercise at the range.

Cpl Neilson was the tank commander and was in the turret while Cpl Hatfield, 27, was loading practice ammunition.

It heard charges used as part of the live fire exercise were incorrectly stowed away before the deadly explosion occurred.

Sergeant Alexander Ahtom, a gunnery schools instructor, told the inquest not storing the charges was ‘dangerous’.

Mrs Hunt said: “We are here to resume the inquest into Cpl Hatfield and Cpl Neilson, who died on June 15 last year following an explosion in a tank.

“The Royal Tank Regiment were on a live firing exercise. The tank involved was Challenger Mark II D539AA.

“The tank had been cleaned out and a piece of equipment had been removed.

“Cpl Hatfield was the loader, Cpl Neilson was the commander.

“At 3.30pm noises were heard from the tank and smoke came from the top of the tank.

“Cpl Neilson was seen to be climbing out of the turret. He was projected out of the turret, landing some distance away.

“The emergency services were called and all were extracted who remained in the tank.

“Cpl Hatfield was taken to hospital where he died from his injuries the following day.

“Cpl Neilson was taken to University Hospital Wales were he died the following day.

“WO2 Lawson has severe injuries.”

The inquest heard a key part of machinery known as the bolt vent axial (BVA) had not been returned to its correct position following a cleaning of the tank that morning.

The court previously heard that the provisional cause of death for Cpl Hatfield, from Amesbury, Wiltshire, was burns, while Cpl Neilson, of Preston, Lancashire, suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of blast-related injuries.

Sergeant Ahtom told the inquest the two soldiers could have died in temperatures reaching 3,000 ºC.

He also said the army had not considered the possibility a tank could fire without having a BVA and have since amended drills to include the vital bolt.

The inquest, due to last three weeks, continues.


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