'Culture of complacency' led to IED death
01 August 2012
The family of a soldier killed by an improvised explosive device on a military training range in Afghanistan has blamed a 'culture of complacency' for the events which led to his death.
The parents and fiancée of Lance Corporal James Hill, of 1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards, who was killed on 8 October 2009 at a range some 4km outside Camp Bastion, said his death had been "needless and entirely preventable" after a coroner recorded an unlawful killing verdict.
Woking coroner Richard Travers said that just 45 minutes had been allotted to search for IEDs at the range before live firing drills began, compared to the four hours that would have been needed for a full search of the training area.
L/Cpl Hill was killed by an IED with such a high metal content that a metal detector operator would have to have been "blind and deaf" not to locate it, Travers said.
The areas that had been declared as cleared within the training area was not marked out, and commanders were criticised for failing to act on concerns about local people's access to the site at the end of each day.
"Whilst the military authorities recognised that there was a risk from IEDs on this range, they did not recognise the full extent of that risk," Travers said.
"The measures put in place to deal with that risk did not reduce it to the safest possible level for those soldiers using the range."
Officers further up the chain of command are said to have ignored an increase in the number of IEDs being planted locally, as well as concerns expressed by senior non-commissioned officers.
Three soldiers were injured in the incident which killed L/Cpl Hill, including Jack Davies, who suffered spinal injuries and had his left leg amputated after the explosion. Davies is launching legal action against the MoD.
Nine days after Hill's death, a range was built within Camp Bastion.
An MoD spokesman said: "As a result of this tragic incident, immediate steps were taken to prevent any further risk from IEDs on the range, including additional force protection."
In a statement read out after the inquest, Hill's parents and fiancee Anastasia Newman said they had been "deeply hurt all over again" after discovering his death was "needless and entirely preventable".
"It was not just those responsible for planting the IED that caused his death, but a culture of complacency and a disregard for every soldier's safety that reached right up the chain of command.
"Those in charge of his safety owed him a duty of care - a duty, we feel, they totally and utterly failed.
"A proper system of communicating up and down the chain of command could possibly have prevented this tragedy. We can only hope that the enormity of what has happened is recognised and this is never allowed to happen again."