Coroner to rule on death of County Durham soldier

A coroner has retired to consider his conclusions for the deaths of two British soldiers who died in a fire as they served in Afghanistan.

MoD/PA Wire Private Dean Hutchinson, 23, of the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), who was killed along with Private Robert Wood in a fire at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, on February 14
Private Dean Hutchinson, 23, of the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), who was killed along with Private Robert Wood in a fire at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, on February 14

A coroner will today give his conclusions over the deaths of a County Durham soldier and a colleague who died in a fire as they served in Afghanistan.

Private Dean Hutchinson, 23, from Spennymoor, was killed alongside Private Rob Wood when the blaze swept through the Transport Troop tent at Camp Bastion in the early hours of February 14, 2011.

The soldiers, who served with The Royal Logistical Corps, were sleeping in the tented office so they could respond more quickly when vital supplies arrived at the military base.

Fire investigators concluded that the blaze started in the vicinity of a flat-screen TV, boiler and air conditioning unit and quickly spread - igniting combustible materials nearby.

Following the tragedy, a number of changes have been made to improve safety for troops using tents.

Families of the soldiers have “serious concerns” the tent did not appear to have an accessible fire exit, working smoke alarm and was too long, the inquest heard.

Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner David Ridley told the hearing there were issues raised during the week-long hearing which he would consider.

“That concludes the evidence I have had presented before me,” Mr Ridley said. “I did give an indication as to where I am going in this case.

“I am minded there are a couple of areas I want to take on in a recommendation 28 report.

“From the families’ perspective, I cannot make recommendations, all I will be asking them (the Ministry of Defence) to do is look at it.”

Mr Ridley said the MoD would respond to his concerns within 56 days, with the soldiers’ families about to see the correspondence.

“It may be that some of the things I am asking have already been resolved and if that is the case, then great,” Mr Ridley said.

A number of recommendations have been implemented following investigations into the deaths, the hearing was told.

Guidance to help establish whether a tent is in a safe condition has been incorporated into the Army Equipment Support Publication.

The inquest previously heard evidence the tent was not on Camp Bastion’s asset register - a document kept by the Army and facilities contractor KBR listing all building and structures the US firm was responsible for.

But Colonel Nicholas Freeman, strategic head of the Defence Inquest Unit, said he had been informed the Army and KBR often advised each other of assets not listed.

“It was routine,” Colonel Freeman said.

Pte Wood, known as Woody, had become a father to a boy, Noah, shortly before he died. He was a driver port operator, posted to 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, and lived in Marchwood, Hampshire.

Pte Hutchinson, from Spennymoor, County Durham, was a driver and had seven years’ service with the Army.

The inquest was adjourned until this afternoon, when Mr Ridley will return his conclusions.

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