Hampshire soldier died after tent caught fire at Camp Bastion

Daily Echo: Soldiers in Afghanistan Soldiers in Afghanistan

A HAMPSHIRE soldier died in a fire that engulfed his tent as he slept at an army base, an inquest heard.

Private Rob Wood, who was from Marchwood, died along with Dean Hutchinson when flames swept through a logistical centre at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in the early hours of February 14, 2011.

Privates Wood and Hutchinson - plus one survivor - were sleeping in the tented office so they could respond more quickly when vital supplies arrived.

Pte Wood, 28, 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.

Pte Hutchinson, 23, from Spennymoor, County Durham, was a driver and had seven years' service with the Army.

Firefighters on the base were quickly at the scene but were unable to save the two men, who served with The Royal Logistic Corps.

The soldiers were identified by dental records, the inquest in Salisbury, Wiltshire, heard.

The men had been on duty on the night of February 13 in the 18ft by 24ft Transport Troop tent and were on standby in case any equipment needed unloading from flights arriving at the base.

In an opening statement read to the court, David Ridley, Coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said: ''There is a tent where it is common practice for on-duty personnel to sleep although someone has to remain awake to answer the phone.

''The tent was heated by a large air conditioning unit whereby warm air was pumped into the tent.

''The tent has a TV, fridge and kettle.

''Lance Corporal Sikeli Ratu reports they watched TV and he went to sleep about 3am.

''The lights in the tent were off but the TV was on.

''L/Cpl Ratu awoke, time unknown, and could immediately smell the smell of burnt wires (coming from the area of the TV and kettle).

''Flames were coming out the tube which ran to the air conditioning unit.

''L/Cpl Ratu got out of his sleeping bag and ran to the door.

''As he ran out white plastic was already falling off the ceiling.

''He shouted to Woody and Hutch to get out but there was no response.

''L/Cpl Ratu states that he heard Pte Hutchinson call his name out but by this time the fire had taken hold and was all over the side of the tent and the entrance.''

The inquest heard that by the time firefighters arrived at the scene the blaze had taken hold of the tent with flames approximately 3ft high and only the metal tent poles remaining of the structure.

Earlier the inquest, which is due to last two weeks, heard evidence from Acting Lt Colonel Steve Cornell, who was the commanding officer of the General Support Squadron.

Lt Col Cornell said the Transport Troop tent was located in front of the Quartermaster's Tent and during the course of the tour the first tent had been extended a few days before the blaze to house members of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who work closely with The Royal Logistic Corps.

The coroner asked Lt Col Cornell whether this extension caused him any concerns.

''I wanted to know two things,'' he said.

''Firstly, who was working on the light and I wanted to know who was putting the light fitting in.

''It was one of the vehicle electricians and the second thing was that they had fitted a white fire retardant lining.''

Lt Col Cornell added: ''It looked professional. They pointed out the vehicle electrician did the light and that they had thought about it quite properly.''

Lt Col Cornell said he was concerned about the ''daisy chaining'' of electrical extension sockets and would carry out spot checks within his company's areas to ensure this was not happening.

He said that he would also check that extension sockets had the ''CE'' mark and also a safety light.

''I expected the whole chain of command to check,'' he added.

The inquest also heard evidence from Private Apenai Bukarau who saw flames and smoke coming from the tent on the morning the two soldiers died.

''L/Cpl Ratu appeared to be injured and was in shock and shouting about both privates,'' he said in a statement read to the hearing.

''He said he couldn't get them.

''He said he saw smoke coming from behind the TV and he couldn't get to them.''

Staff Sergeant Michael Temple told the inquest that an electrical power distributor outside the tent fed three sets of sockets inside.

''We have had some power outages before but I couldn't tell you the cause, just no power,'' he said.

But the hearing also heard conflicting evidence as to whether the door at the rear of the extended Transport Troop tent - which had increased in size by 50% - was sealed or not.

Sgt Temple said the intention was to have the rear door exiting into the adjacent Quartermaster's tent and he that he believed that work had been done to make that possible.

But in a written statement Corporal Graham Smith said: ''This did not close off an entrance or exit as that end of the tent was sealed anyway.

''It did not occur to me that a new fire risk assessment would be required as the alteration did not change anything I thought of as significant cause of a fire risk.''

The inquest also heard evidence from Lance Corporal Jerry Wong who recalled smelling burning plastic inside the tent a few days before the fatal blaze.

''There was a very slight smell of burning plastic in the area of the fridge and the boiler,'' he said in a statement.

''I looked around, under the table and at the back behind the appliances and I could not see any smoke or fire.

''I asked in the tent if anyone could smell burning and they said they could.

''As I could not see any smoke and it was a slight smell, I put the smell down to the burn pit which you can sometimes smell burning from.''

The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.

Comments (4)

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6:43pm Mon 12 May 14

wwozzer says...

No smoke alarms?
No smoke alarms? wwozzer
  • Score: -2

8:57pm Mon 12 May 14

Sir Ad E Noid says...

wwozzer wrote:
No smoke alarms?
In a war zone? Are you for real?
[quote][p][bold]wwozzer[/bold] wrote: No smoke alarms?[/p][/quote]In a war zone? Are you for real? Sir Ad E Noid
  • Score: -2

9:51pm Mon 12 May 14

wwozzer says...

Sir Ad E Noid wrote:
wwozzer wrote:
No smoke alarms?
In a war zone? Are you for real?
What difference does that make? It's hardly going to give their position away, I'm sure the enemy has already spotted camp bastion bearing in mind it's the size of a small town...

War zone or not a five quid smoke alarm could have made the differenc,e assuming one wasn't present.
[quote][p][bold]Sir Ad E Noid[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]wwozzer[/bold] wrote: No smoke alarms?[/p][/quote]In a war zone? Are you for real?[/p][/quote]What difference does that make? It's hardly going to give their position away, I'm sure the enemy has already spotted camp bastion bearing in mind it's the size of a small town... War zone or not a five quid smoke alarm could have made the differenc,e assuming one wasn't present. wwozzer
  • Score: 2

7:05am Tue 13 May 14

skeptik says...

As a junior NCO commanding an AFV432 when on live firing exercises (BATUS) Canada - the vehicles were older petrol models. When field refuelling we would put a ground spike in to earth the vehicle to prevent static arcing between jerry can and vehicle. We were wearing lightweight trousers - one day my driver using an old pair torn up to keep the periscopes clean threw some of these 'rags' on a fire imagine as we realized the kit we were wearing flared up as it was set light too. This some years after a solider was burned as his sleeping bag caught light! Smoke alarms! The equipment should have a fire retardant property - especially as fire is often the secondary effect of combat.
As a junior NCO commanding an AFV432 when on live firing exercises (BATUS) Canada - the vehicles were older petrol models. When field refuelling we would put a ground spike in to earth the vehicle to prevent static arcing between jerry can and vehicle. We were wearing lightweight trousers - one day my driver using an old pair torn up to keep the periscopes clean threw some of these 'rags' on a fire imagine as we realized the kit we were wearing flared up as it was set light too. This some years after a solider was burned as his sleeping bag caught light! Smoke alarms! The equipment should have a fire retardant property - especially as fire is often the secondary effect of combat. skeptik
  • Score: 0

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