British soldier was shot dead by US helicopter

 

A British soldier was killed in Afghanistan after being hit by fire from a US Apache helicopter which wrongly identified his base as an enemy stronghold, a coroner said today.

Lance Corporal Christopher Roney, 23, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, died from head injuries he suffered while serving at Patrol Base Almas, in Sangin, Helmand, in December 2009.

The base had come under attack from insurgents and the platoon based there were busy fighting them off when air support was called in, Coroner Derek Winter said.

A drone fitted with a camera and two US Apaches flew to the patrol base, which was a compound with mud walls, bought from a local owner some weeks before and was not on official maps.

British troops on the ground, who by this stage had won a firefight against their attackers, were incorrectly identified as the enemy and they were hit by 30mm chain gun rounds.

Mr Winter, the Sunderland Coroner, said 200 rounds were fired before the mistake was spotted, leaving 11 injured on the ground.

L/Cpl Roney, a married former drayman, received emergency treatment but died from his injuries the next day.

Mr Winter said the mistaken view that the British base was an insurgents' compound was shared with key personnel.

This was despite the patrol base, 3km from Forward Operating Base Jackson, having a flagpole, a washing line, defensive constructions and personnel who were not dressed like the enemy, Mr Winter said.

He was summarising the evidence he expected to hear during the week-long inquest.

Statements have been given from the US pilots and co-pilots which will be read later.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Kitson, who watched live pictures of the attack, said it was a "tragic incident".

In his opening statement, Mr Winter said throughout the incident the US Apache helicopter crews were not informed, nor did they ask for the exact location of Patrol Base Almas.

He said: "As a consequence, they were unaware that the compound they were observing and in which they believed they had positively identified insurgents was, in fact Patrol Base Almas."

He described how, with "total disorientation" now in place, the Apaches were authorised to engage.

"Fused by the overwhelming belief that Patrol Base Almas was at risk of being overrun, the subsequent reactions and actions to these events created a devastating cumulative effect", he said.

Mr Winter said that due to the involvement of the US Apache helicopters, the number of personnel and the different locations, the sequence of events that unfolded was highly complex.

As a result, he said he would consider all that was visible in the context of a base that was not on the map.

He also stated he would take into consideration the "cumulative human factor elements in this tragic incident" as well as any lessons learnt.

In his evidence, Lt Col Kitson said the base at Almas was one of the hardest for the army to defend.

"By the end of the tour, Almas still remained the trickiest as we had limited vehicle access", he said.

"There was very rudimentary defences, such as three layers of barbed wire.

"There was also no printed mapping that had it marked on it."

He said that on the camera picture he was watching of the attack it was impossible to identify those on screen.

He said: "We could see black blobs running around but its just a blob.

"There's no way at that distance of identifying the people.

"I could see muzzle flashes and projectiles being launched but I was the victim of my own assumptions."

He said when it dawned on them what had happened the command was given to "check fire".

"The operations room was very busy and it was a pretty frenetic environment", he said.

He said six deaths had already occurred that week and there was a general nervousness about Patrol Base Almas.

Concluding his evidence, he expressed his regret at what happened.

He said: "I want to record my considerable amount of regret and there's not one of us that cannot think of something we might have done differently."

Lt Col Kitson said Patrol Base Almas was set up to halt activity in what had become a "no-go area" known as the Taliban Playground.

Captain Palmer Winstanley, commanding L/Cpl Roney's platoon, said that night insurgents set off a large bomb and launched an attack with small arms fire.

He told the inquest his men managed to repel the attackers.

"We were pretty much winning the firefight which means we pushed them back to a safe distance and hopefully they were going to move off into the night," he said.

Then the base came under heavy attack from what he later realised were Apaches.

"It was like nothing I have ever experienced before and I tried to establish what it could be," he said.

At first he believed the explosions and shrapnel were caused by enemy rocket-propelled grenades fired from 800m and exploding in the air above them.

He also wondered if the enemy had breached the compound defences in the dark.

He did not know how long the Apache attack lasted or how many passes the helicopters made.

Men were injured, a communication mast destroyed and the picture became confused as he was unaware any Apaches were in the area.

He said at around the same time, his men and staff at HQ realised the US attack helicopters were to blame.

Meanwhile, the enemy, who had been moving away, saw what happened and came back to renew the assault and got to within 30m of the base.

A 500lb bomb was dropped on a compound the insurgents were using to launch fire on Almas, and their raid ended.

Asked by William Roney, the soldier's brother, if the Apache's presence was needed, Captain Winstanley replied: "We could have won the firefight ... As we were, we were OK."

The inquest was adjourned for the day.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines