Shocking MoD failings revealed in inquest into the deaths of Army reservists during SAS selection

Clare Stevens of Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd is representing David Dunsby, father of Cpl James Dunsby, deceased, in the ongoing inquest into the tragic deaths of 3 Army reservists on the Brecon Beacons.

On 13th July 2013 Cpl James Dunsby was one of the military reservists attending the Specialist unit selection exercise taking place on the Brecon Beacons, Wales, alongside Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Lance Corporal Edward Maher.

The exercise was a test march which had to be completed individually whilst navigating an arduous terrain in a set period of time. The soldiers were to pass through 5 manned checkpoints. They were required to carry a weighted Bergen together with food, water and a weapon along with their full military uniforms. The forecast for 13th July 2013 was for temperatures to soar to 29-30 degrees.

During the afternoon, a series of events unfolded resulting in the tragic deaths of Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Lance Corporal Edward Maher, and the hospitalisation of Corporal James Dunsby who subsequently died. All 3 soldiers died from heat injuries.

We have heard during the inquest, held before Coroner Louise Hunt, that candidates did not have sufficient water supplies, were collapsing from heat exhaustion and several were helped by civilians. Despite this, the inquest has heard that the march was not called off despite the heat and MOD policy suggesting it should have been.

Professor Havenith, the expert instructed by the inquiry, confirmed  that if the exercise had been cancelled, or measures had been taken to remove Cpl Dunsby and treat his condition at the Pen y Fan checkpoint, he would have survived. Professor Havenith also told the inquest that stopping the exercise should have been considered as early as 12.14pm.

If this had happened, this tragedy would have been avoided.

The inquest has further heard that no readings were taken from a Wet Bulb Globe Temperature monitor. This is in direct contravention of guidance produced by the MoD to prevent climatic illness such as heat injuries. The author of the guidance, Captain Surgeon Graeme Nicholson, told the inquest that the guidance “should have been followed”. It was also revealed that it was widely known that such guidance was not being read and reporting of heat injuries were not always being recorded.

It has become clear that none of those who organised the exercise or were in command in the day were aware of the MOD’s policy or had even been trained on it. The risk assessment was also woefully inadequate and lip service was effectively paid to the risk assessment process.

This raises serious questions as to how the MOD conducts its business.

It is hoped that the findings of the inquest will result in recommendations being given to the MoD to change their practices in order to prevent further deaths or illness as a result of heat injury as this tragedy was completely avoidable.

The inquest continues.