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Mastiff provided “expected level of protection”

An inquest into the deaths of Glencorse based soldiers Private Robert Hetherington, Corporal William Savage and Fusilier Samuel Flint has heard that the armoured vehicle, carrying the servicemen, provided the required protection and did not adversely impact the soldiers’ chance of survival.

The Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court has heard how an improvised explosive device was intricately buried beneath a metal road in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Afghanistan, awaiting passing convoys to trigger its detonation.

The device was triggered on April 30 2013 by a convoy of military vehicles, which included the six-wheeled Mastiff vehicle that was carrying the locally based soldiers. Corporal William Savage, 30, Private Robert Hetherington, 25, and Fusilier Samuel Flint, 21, were sitting towards the rear doors of the armoured transportation when the IED detonated. The proximity of their position to the blast led to the almost instantaneous deaths of the three men.

The armoured convoy was travelling along the metal based Route 611 when the IED detonated, removing the rear doors of the Mastiff and turning it onto its side. Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court heard how the explosive device had likely been detonated from a compound ten feet from the road.

Fusilier Scott Bell, who was travelling in the Mastiff also, noted that, after the explosion, he saw that Fusilier Flint was still in his seat, Pte Hetherington was slouched forward and Corporal Savage appeared to be sitting up. All three were promptly taken by helicopter back to Camp Bastion where they were pronounced dead.

Today, senior corner Darren Salter told an inquest that, despite being involved in previous explosions, the vehicle was still safe for transportation. He said:

Taking the evidence together, including the history of Mastiff vehicles in countless previous IED strikes, there is no significant evidence it did not provide the expected level of protection or that the occupants were made more vulnerable to the injuries they sustained because of the 2009 IED damage.

Over witnesses expressed their shock at how insurgents had tunnelled beneath the road to place the device. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Swift said:

We were not expecting to see evidence of tunnelling. Assets did not identify anything suspicious. We were looking for ground sign, perhaps an area of disturbed earth, and no ground sign was identified by any of these assets.

A large scale operation was later undertaken by 1000 troops to ascertain the route’s safety.

The Mastiff vehicle was renowned for being almost impervious to IED attacks, however the intensity of the explosion “overmatched” the secure vehicle.