Coroner’s pledge as troop inquest begins

Tragic day: The Order of Service at the funeral of Sam  Flint-Broughton at St Chad's Church, Poulton
Tragic day: The Order of Service at the funeral of Sam Flint-Broughton at St Chad's Church, Poulton
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A coroner has pledged to examine the protection given by a military vehicle which was destroyed in Afghanistan, killing a Fylde coast soldier.

Three soldiers were killed in a bomb blast on Route 611 in the Nahr-e-Saraj district on April 30 last year, including Fusilier Sam Flint-Broughton, 21, from Poulton.

Darren Salter, senior coroner for Oxfordshire, said at the start of the three men’s inquest he would consider issues such as the protection afforded by the Mastiff vehicle if subjected to such an attack.

He said he would also consider whether there were any defects in the vehicle, whether it was possible to detect the devices beforehand, and what intelligence was available to the patrol.

Cpl William Savage, 30, from Penicuik, Midlothian; Fusilier Flint-Broughton, and Pte Robert Hetherington, 25 , from Edinburgh, died of blast injuries caused by the explosion, Mr Salter said.

Post-mortem examinations concluded the three, who were with B Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, would have been deeply unconscious virtually instantly and unaware of what had happened.

Mr Salter said the Mastiff is designed to resist Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks.

There had been earlier damage to this one, the second of three evolutions of the vehicle, in a strike in 2009.

The Royal Military Police made inquiries to the Afghan National Police about this incident, but no one was arrested over it.

The Mastiff, a protective patrol vehicle, had been from Forward Operating Base Ouellette to another base at Lashkar Gah Durai and was on its way back again when the attack happened.

There were four vehicles in the patrol. The driver of the Mastiff, Fusilier Paul Howell, said in a statement the regular locks to the rear doors had been faulty, and he had reported them twice.

He told the inquest that on the day in question, though they were stiff, they were fully sealed when closed.

Extra battle locks were not deployed, but they were not supposed to be when the vehicle was in open desert, only when there were potential public order situations, he said.

He said in his statement that there were 20 ammunition tins under the seats in the rear, which was normal.

The inquest, at Oxfordshire Coroners Court in Oxford, heard that the IED which killed the soldiers was buried under the road, had been placed there by tunnelling, and was triggered by a command wire, probably from behind the 10ft wall of a nearby compound.

Sgt David Boxwell, who was in command of the patrol, said he had not been told of any problems relating to the place where the blast took place.

As for tunnelling under the road, he said: “I had never heard of it before.”

Company Sgt Major Steven Main said: “Everything we had had was off the tarmac road. IEDs were placed in the dust – it’s easier to conceal.”

He said there was no sign on the ground of the IED.

“The wire was so deep that we would not have seen it.”

Fusilier Flint-Broughton had joined the Army in November 2011 and was on his first overseas deployment.

His father David Broughton said he hoped “lessons will be learned” after the death of his son, after choosing to represent Sam himself at the inquest instead of bringing in legal representation.

The inquest into Fusilier Flint-Broughton’s death was originally scheduled to take place in June, but inquest documents were not ready in time.

The inquest is expected to last three days.

(Proceeding)

After Fusilier Flint-Broughton’s body was repatriated to the UK, hundreds of people lined the streets of Poulton to see his funeral cortege make its way to St Chad’s Church.

His name was later added to the town’s war memorial.

The inquest is expected to last three days.