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

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker