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Inquest concludes a tank barrel flaw was responsible for deaths

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A CORONER has reached the conclusion that a fatal explosion in a British Army tank was the result of a design flaw in the gun barrel, allowing highly unstable gases to escape into a tank crew’s turret.

The incident at Castlemartin Range on June 14, 2017, resulted in the deaths of Royal Tank Regiment corporals Matthew Hatfield, 27, and Darren Neilson, 31.

Two others were injured in the blast involving a Challenger 2 tank.

Louise Hunt, the Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said the ‘main cause’ was that the gun could still be fired even when a key component, the bolt vent axial (BVA), which prevents 3,000C explosive gases from entering the crew turret, was missing.

She said: “The main cause of this incident was the tank being able to fire without the BVA assembly being present.
“During production and manufacture of the gun, this hazard was not adequately considered or investigated and therefore the ability of the gun to fire without the BVA present … went undetected.”

Ms Hunt went on to add that there were ‘other issues which contributed to the incident’, citing a lack of written procedures regarding equipment drills and communication, specifically the handing over of vehicles to new crews and the handling of the BVA.

These conclusions were reached following a lengthy inquest detailing the events.

It had previously been heard how the air-tight BVA was not in place at the time of the fatal blast. The inquest also found that there had not been a set procedure to check for said equipment, as well as an unknown flaw in the system which allowed the gun to fire without the BVA in place. Four high explosive ammunition bags, referred to as ‘bag charges’, which are used to propel the shell when firing, were found to be ‘incorrectly stowed’.

The Coroner concluded: “Failure to correctly stow charges caused a secondary explosion following failure of the breech block due to the absence of the BVA assembly, and the practice of un-stowed charges was routine.”

Ms Hunt heard several soldiers provide evidence that charges were sometimes stored outside of the heat-proof storage bins within the turret, notably referring to storage ‘on a soldier’s lap’.

Tank Commander that day was Cpl Darren Neilson, a father-of-one from Preston, Lancashire. He was thrown from the turret during the blast, while Cpl Hatfield, also a father, from Amesbury, Wiltshire, was loading ammunition. Both were evacuated from the scene of the blast, but died later of the injuries sustained.

The other two passengers, Warrant Officer Stuart Lawson and Trooper Michael Warren, were injured but survived.

Cpls Neilson and Hatfield were both highly-trained gunnery instructors that had served with the Royal Tank Regiment in Tidworth, Wiltshire, as well as seeing active combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. They had taken WO Lawson for a ‘guest shoot’, as he had asked permission to go out and fire a tank.

Yet the inquest heard, that according to Army rules, the Royal Tank Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Simon Ridgway was supposed to have written authorisation from a more senior officer for the guest shoot, but he told the coroner that he ‘had not appreciated that at the time’.

Lt Col Ridgway also ‘failed’ to recognise a culture incorrectly storing high explosive charges in the tank turrets. When asked if the incident represented a failure of his leadership during his evidence, Lt Col Ridgway, a veteran of Iraq, said: “I think I failed to identify it was happening. I’m not sure it’s a failure of leadership.

“I have to admit I sort of felt physically sick when I heard people were stowing them out of the bins.

“If for one moment I suspected they were storing them incorrectly, I would have been furious.”

The inquest went on to hear that Lt Col Ridgway didn’t know that the ‘guest shoot’ was happening that day, and so had not passed down his order for WO Lawson to ‘sit on his hands’, and make sure to leave firing to the tank commander.

The inquest found that a basic whiteboard was used to assign crews and tank activities, but it was not routinely updated. The Army said that drill sand training procedure has been updated since the blast.

A report containing three recommendations has been sent out to the Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems, which had designed and constructed the main battle tank of the Army, with the aim of preventing further accidents.

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Milford Haven: Police called to Charles Street incident

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MILFORD HAVEN police responded to an emergency call from Charles Street in Milford Haven this afternoon (May 20).

Several officers attended following reports of a man injured on the pavement.

Our reporter at the scene said that a male was conscious but nursing injuries to his head

There are over 15 officers at the scene.

A male has been arrested and taken into custody in a police van.

 

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Willy make the council fix the road?

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DRIVERS in and around the Maenclochog area are still recovering today after a hardened vandal spray-painted yellow penises along a stretch of road near Morvil.
The road, just off the B4313, was targeted with graffiti because of the number of potholes scattered along it’s length.
Locals have dubbed the cock-sure artist as ‘Wanksy’ and have discovered that whoever drew the penises also wrote ‘Follow the yellow d### road’.
Some of the penises have been drawn around more sizeable potholes, but simply pointing disapprovingly at the smaller ones.
If you want to report a pothole, the chosen method is still via the Pembrokeshire County Council website.
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Hakin: Young male arrested following allegation of assault

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FIVE police vehicles descended on a property in Hakin at lunchtime today following a 999 call reporting an assault.

Officers entered the property in Observatory Avenue and after about ten minutes a young male was brought out in handcuffs.

A spokesman from the police press office told The Herald: “Police were called to Observatory Avenue to a report of an assault at around 1pm today (Monday, May 20).”

The spokesman added: “A 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and is currently in police custody.”

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