Tributes have been paid to a soldier who collapsed and died on a training run across the North Yorkshire moors a day after celebrating his 26th birthday.
Private Michael Ihemere, from Nigeria, was taking part in a three-mile run across rugged terrain on Barden Moor, near Leyburn, on the sprawling Catterick Garrison training area.
He had joined the British Army in November 2011 and served with the 1st Battalion, The Mercian Regiment.
When he collapsed, fellow soldiers from the battalion’s C Company called paramedics but he was declared dead at the scene, overlooking the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Pte Ihemere had served a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan and returned from the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province in April.
His widow, Blessing, attended a memorial parade in his honour at Marne Barracks in Catterick.
His death came less than two months after three Territorial Army reservists – Craig Roberts, 24, and James Dunsby and Edward Maher, both 31 – collapsed and died during a gruelling SAS selection test in the Brecon Beacons on one of the hottest days of the year. Witnesses described seeing the men “clearly in distress” and asking for water on Pen y Fan.
However, conditions on the Dales were much cooler on Wednesday – about 17C – and an Army source said heat was not currently considered a factor in Pte Ihemere’s death.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Ellwood paid tribute to a “reliable, talented and popular soldier”. He said: “His likeable and kind nature immediately endeared him to those he worked with.
“While on operations, he was involved in some fierce fighting but always remained calm, did his job well and supported his friends and colleagues with resolute loyalty.”
He said that Pte Ihemere had shown the potential to progress in the Army and had had a bright future. “His loss will be keenly felt across the battalion and the thoughts, prayers and sympathies of all those that had the pleasure to know Pte Ihemere are with his wife and family at this difficult time,” he said.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and officers were “working with the Army to establish the full circumstances surrounding the death so that a file can be prepared on behalf of the coroner”.
The police and the Army’s Land Accidents Investigation Team will look at whether the soldier had a “pre-existing medical condition”. It is understood the soldiers were running under “individual effort” and were not being “pushed” by commanders. It was not clear whether Pte Ihemere was carrying a heavy load on the exercise.
Many troops of the Mercian Regiment live in barracks at Catterick, which is the Army’s largest base and has a 20,000-acre training area. It is home to the School of Infantry and the Infantry Training Centre, where phase one and two training is conducted for every British infantry soldier.
Many of the light infantry unit’s members come from Cheshire and The Wirral.