Browne says sorry for Nimrod deaths

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Indy Politics

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, apologised yesterday to the families of 14 servicemen who were killed when an ageing Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft exploded after refuelling in mid-air over Afghanistan.

A board of inquiry said a fuel leak was probably the cause of the accident and found damning evidence of safety failures by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

All Nimrods are to be banned from refuelling in mid-air but will not be grounded. The crash raised renewed doubts about the ability of the MoD to cope with the demands placed on frontline forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Tory defence spokesman Gerald Howarth said it was a "scandal" that a replacement for the Nimrod was four years overdue, and had been delayed by another four years.

Some of the relatives said they were not prepared to accept the Defence Secretary's apology and called for the resignation of the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Glenn Torpy.

Graham Knight, whose son, Benjamin died in the accident, said: "Sometimes sorry is not enough. What they should have done is made sure the aircraft was airworthy." His son and the other victims were "betrayed", he said.