A surveillance balloon and Afghan soldiers playing football contributed to an RAF helicopter crash that killed five in 2015 in Kabul, a coroner in Oxfordshire has ruled.
Two Britons, Flt Lt Geraint Roberts and Flt Lt Alan Scott, were among the dead. Two others were American and the fifth, Gordon Emin, French. Five others were also injured.
The coroner’s court while it circled the Nato landing site, which doubled as a football pitch, where soldiers were playing at the time. While waiting for the pitch to clear, the helicopter hit the cable and crashed. The coroner, Darren Salter, said the two Britons and the Frenchman had died from their injuries either on impact or soon afterwards.
He said it had been accidental, but the siting of the balloon close to the landing site contributed. There was also an unsatisfactory system of management in regard to communications and clearance of the site, he said, “resulting in the need to go around or overshoot, which increased the risk of a tether strike given its proximity”.
“The helicopter was the second aircraft in a formation of two whose task it was to take personnel between helicopter landing sites in Kabul,” Salter said. “The helicopter was due to land at the dual-use helicopter landing site at headquarters known as the soccer field.
“It was actually necessary for the helicopters to conduct a go-around due to persons being on the soccer field.”
RAF Sgt Simon Craig, in another helicopter, said people on the football pitch had not moved so his helicopter overshot. But the other helicopter flew over the pitch.
“Puma II began pitching and rolling and it was clear something had gone wrong. We heard the mayday call from Puma II and it was clear it had hit the ground,” Craig said.
We heard the mayday call from Puma II and it was clear it had hit the ground
Flt Lt Scott’s wife, Lisa, said: “My Al was kind, intelligent, determined and conscientious and we know he could have done great things had his life not been cut so tragically and unfairly short.
“The only solace we have from this is that Al died doing what he loved, which is a claim that very few people can make.
“I remain fiercely proud of Al – husband, son, brother, friend and gentleman. I love him as much as the day we married and I hope that – somehow – he knows that.”
Emin’s family is to pursue a compensation claim with the UK (MoD).
They said: “Obviously, it’s been extremely painful for our family to hear the evidence about what happened to Gordon during this inquest.
“We always felt there were questions to be answered and this process has gone some way to doing that. Gordon was an exceptional, loving and caring man, and we will ensure his memory lives on through his two young children.
“It is our sincere wish that the recommendations highlighted this week are put into place to prevent other people having to cope with another tragic and avoidable loss of life.
“We will now work with our lawyers at Fieldfisher to pursue a civil claim against the Ministry of Defence in the hope of providing some financial security to Gordon’s wife and children, who are suffering so deeply.”
The MoD said: “The MoD will consider the findings and recommendations made by the coroner in order to ensure that such tragic events do not happen again in the future.”