RAF's second in command dies during triathlon

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The Independent Online

The second in command of the Royal Air Force died yesterday afternoon while competing in a triathlon.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Chris Moran, who was running British air operations in Afghanistan, collapsed during the 5km running leg of the triathlon at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, after completing a 400m swim and 22km bike ride. He was evacuated by air ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford but was later pronounced dead. He had celebrated his 54th birthday four weeks ago.

One of the most distinguished figures in the military, Sir Chris had the title of Commander-in-Chief Air Command and was deputy to Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, head of the RAF. Yesterday Mr Dalton described him as a "highly respected and courageous leader". "It is with great sadness and shock that I announce the untimely death of Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Moran," he said.

"This tragic loss comes as a huge blow to the Royal Air Force and defence at large. Most importantly, our prayers and thoughts are with his family, to whom I offer my most sincere condolences on behalf of the Royal Air Force, serving and retired."

Moran, a keen skiier and reader of military history, joined the Royal Air Force as a university cadet while studying mechanical engineering at Manchester University.

He flew as a flight commander in the Falkland Islands and on HMS Illustrious. In 1985 he was posted on exchange duties with the US Marine Corps in North Carolina. In 1994 he became commanding officer of No IV Squadron in Germany, and was appointed to the board of the Civil Aviation Authority nine years later. A replacement appointment will be made in due course by the Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Graham Eric Stirrup in conjunction with the RAF board. He leaves his wife Elizabeth; two daughters – both at university – and a son at school.

His death coincided with news that another British soldier has been killed in a firefight with insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

The serviceman, who is yet to be named, from 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, was on a foot patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand Province on Tuesday morning.

The joint patrol with Afghan National Army troops aimed to reassure local people. He was serving as part of 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles Battle Group.

Lt-Colonel James Carr-Smith, of Task Force Helmand, said: "He died doing his duty, alongside his mates. He will be greatly missed and we will always remember him."

His death takes the number of British troops who have died in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2001 to 287.