Coroner calls for change after death of young Hucknall soldier

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A coroner has called for changes in army training after an inquest heard how a young Hucknall soldier was crushed to death while manoeuvring a heavy trailer in a Dartmoor lane.

Private Cameron Laing, 20, died after being caught between a truck and the four-ton container which was being transported to the army base at Okehampton Barracks.

The convoy got lost after spending 15 hours travelling from Leicestershire to Devon and going down a single track path by a sat-nav system which was not checked against maps.

The fatal accident happened as troops were trying to shunt the truck and trailers so they could be turned round and taken back to the correct route.

The father-to-be died almost instantly from multiple injuries after he was caught between the trailer and truck when a brake was released and they rolled into each other on a 12 degree slope.

The jury at an inquest at County Hall in Exeter ruled that a lack of appreciation of the braking and coupling systems contributed to the accident.

Greater Devon coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland said she will now be writing to the Ministry of Defence to ask them to review a specific aspect of training relating to the use of trucks and trailers.

She said the Army should review their training on the manoeuvring and pulling of trailers from the rear.

She said:”The Logistics Development Training Team should reconsider their views on the monitoring and training of manoeuvres and the pulling of trailers from the rear.”

The three day inquest heard that other safety recommendations including improved sign posting on Dartmoor have already been implemented.

The hearing was told how the convoy had got lost because of over-reliance on satnav and ended up going down a narrow dead end road which ended at the Youth Hostel at Bracken Tor.

The soldiers decided to unhitch the trailer from the truck so they could turn around and head back in the right direction to the base.

The trailer’s brake was released during the operation and it moved suddenly and crushed Private Laing.

He was one of a group of soldiers from the 7 Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps, based at Kendrew Barracks at Cottismore, Leicestershire, who had spent all day taking the convoy to Devon.

Fellow soldier Semi Rokotovitovi said in a statement he blamed himself for not seeing Cameron.

He said they only had to hitch the trailer ‘three or four inches’ on to the truck’s tow pin but the trailer’s brakes had frozen up because they had run out of air.

He said in ten years service he had never encountered a problem or any danger in hitching a trailer to a lorry.

Rokotovitovi said that he heard Lance Corporal Kirsty Mullins shout ‘everyone is clear’ as she released the hand brake on the trailer in the seconds before the fatal accident.

Ministry of Defence accident investigator Lieutenant Colonel Ian Burton recommended that in future routes should be checked with maps as well as sat-nav devices and new signs should direct vehicles away from the road to Bracken Tor.

He said: ”Fatigue may also have played a part. They had got up at 5am, left at 6am and this accident occurred just before 10 pm.

“They had been on the go all day, although they had a break, and it is highly likely they would have been fatigued. The regulations stipulate a maximum operating duty of 13 hours and they had been operating for over 15.

“Taking that into account judgments may have been compromised. In my opinion this was not best practice as laid down in procedures.

“The prime causation of the accident was failure to comply with trailer coupling and uncoupling procedures contributed to by incorrect route selection and lack of understanding of the trailer braking system.

“There was a lack of adequate command and control, and fatigue may have been a factor.”

Speaking last year, Cameron’s family and partner paid tribute to him.

“Cameron was an amazing son, brother, boyfriend and expectant father. He was a loveable rogue, always playing practical jokes and the fun in any situation.

“He could not wait to be a father to his son, baby Cameron. He will be sorely missed by everyone whose life he touched.”