14/12/2007

Derry Soldier's Blast Protection 'Limited'

A soldier from Londonderry who was killed while on duty in Iraq was let down by the inadequate body armour with which he was issued.

Lance Corporal Timothy Flowers, 25, of the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME), died after being hit by shrapnel in Basra on July 21.

Wiltshire Coroner, David Masters recorded a verdict of unlawful killing and said that while the equipment L/Cpl Flowers was given offered only limited protection - it was the best available.

L/Cpl Flowers and his colleagues had been working on a Warrior vehicle at Basra Palace compound at the time of his death.

He was killed when a shell landed a few metres from him as he went to fetch a generator.

He was found facedown wearing a half-undone standard combat body armour vest.

The standing order for body armour changed after L/Cpl Flowers' death.

Men were then required to wear more protective Osprey body armour kits whenever they were out in the open, the inquest at Trowbridge Town Hall was told.

But because the Osprey kits are cumbersome and heavy, REME soldiers working on vehicles after this change still had to take off their Osprey kits in order to do their work.

Sergeant John White, of the Royal Tank Regiment, with whom L/Cpl Flowers worked in a three-man team recovering broken-down vehicles, said after his death they continued to be subjected to indirect fire attacks while working in the open.

"This situation is still the same today as far as I am aware," he told the coroner.

Alan Hepper, an MoD armour expert, told the hearing it was not possible to say whether an Osprey kit would have stopped the fragment which killed the soldier.

In the event, even if his standard combat body armour had been fully done-up, the fragment would probably have missed the protective plate, Mr Hepper said.

L/Cpl Flowers, from the Waterside in Londonderry, was attached to the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment and was serving with the Irish Guards Battle Group when he died.

A post-mortem examination confirmed his death was caused by a blast-generated fragment wound to the chest.

(BMcC)

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