Risk assessment due on soldiers’ quarters, inquest told

Private Rob Wood

Private Rob Wood

First published in News
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Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter

FIRE safety checks were to be carried out on a tent in which a soldier slept shortly before it was engulfed in flames, an inquest heard.

Private Rob Wood, from Marchwood, lost his life along with Private Dean Hutchinson, 23, when flames swept through a logistical centre at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in the early hours of February 14, 2011.

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

The inquest heard how a captain intended to carry out a risk assessment once they had moved into another tent.

Witnesses have described smelling smoke coming from the area in the tent housing a 32-inch flat screen TV, boiler and fridge and seeing flames coming from cabling leading to the air conditioning unit.

The inquest in Salisbury heard that members of the Transport Troop were stationed in an 18ft by 24ft tent, which shortly before the fire had been extended by 50 per cent to include members of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

The Transport Troop were due to take over a neighbouring tent, which had been vacated by the Quartermaster.

Captain Timothy Fitzgerald, who was Privates Wood and Hutchinson’s commanding officer, told of an intention to carry out a fire risk assessment once they had moved into the second tent.

“From my point of view it made sense to do the fire risk assessment when we pushed through (into the Quarter-master’s tent) and the sleeping arrangements were changed,” Capt Fitzgerald said. “Either way the whole dynamics would have changed and I saw that as my opportunity to update assessments.

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“I knew that when something changed I needed to do a risk assessment.”

Capt Fitzgerald said there was a smoke detector on the ceiling of the tent but he did not know who was responsible for ensuring it was in working order.

He told Wiltshire and Swindon coroner David Ridley that the Troop’s fire officer, Lance Corporal David Williams, had raised with him the issue of checking the smoke detector.

The inquest also heard evidence from Staff Sergeant Paul Swann, who first raised the alarm when he saw the fire coming from the tent.

He said it took between 20 and 30 minutes from the blaze being seen to the fire brigade arriving at the scene.

He described what happened after he ran to the burning tent.

“The fire was raging. It was too late... it was already up,” Sgt Swann told the hearing.

The inquest resumes today.

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