Friday, May 2, 2008

UK:Marine died in 'unsuitable' vehicle

Marine died in 'unsuitable' vehicle
Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian, Saturday May 3 2008

A Royal Marine killed in a gun battle in Afghanistan might have survived had more suitable armoured vehicles been available, a coroner said yesterday.

Richard Watson, 23, from Caterham, Surrey, died after he came under attack in Helmand province in December 2006. The inquest at Oxford coroner's court heard that Watson, from Plymouth-based 42 Commando, was in a Pinzgauer utility vehicle when his patrol was attacked.

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, the coroner, Andrew Walker, said: "This vehicle was not designed to be used in a situation where there may be incoming small arms fire and as a consequence was unsuitable for this type of patrol. A request had been made for a Viking vehicle but none were available." Major Neil Sutherland, who had initiated the patrol, said that if he had had the option of using Vikings it would have been a "no brainer". He added: "But I was acutely aware that the number of Viking vehicles that were in the theatre were finite." He said: "If Marine Watson had been in a Viking vehicle in exactly the same spot with the doors closed he would not be dead today."

Asked by Walker if the Pinzgauer should have been used in areas where there was incoming fire, Nicholas Fox, a military vehicle expert, replied "no".

Watson's mother, Tania, said afterwards she hoped lessons had been learned from her son's death. "It has taken 18 long months to get this verdict and we feel that this has been unacceptably long."

A Royal Navy statement apologised for the delays in finding out exactly what had happened. It described Watson as "a natural leader who loved to be at the forefront of everything and had a determined and competitive character".

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