MoD criticised in road death inquest

A FAMILY has criticised the Ministry of Defence after a military vehicle crashed, killing their teenage son.As reported first on The Evening Star website yesterday, an inquest into the death of 18-year-old soldier Lee Passmore heard the army lorry he was travelling in did not have its MOT equivalent when it crashed on a Suffolk road.

A FAMILY has criticised the Ministry of Defence after a military vehicle crashed, killing their teenage son.

As reported first on The Evening Star website yesterday, an inquest into the death of 18-year-old soldier Lee Passmore heard the army lorry he was travelling in did not have its MOT equivalent when it crashed on a Suffolk road.

Lance Corporal Passmore died when the eight-ton truck veered off the road and careered down an embankment on the A14 near the Claydon turn-off on October 2, 2002.

The inquest at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday heard that faulty brakes probably caused the crash.


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After the hearing, Mr Passmore's family released a statement saying: "The family are delighted that after 18 months of investigation the full details surrounding Lee's death have been revealed today.

"The family are disappointed that an organisation that one would not normally expect to make this kind of mistake did so.

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"The coroner has helpfully made recommendations today requesting the MoD review the systems regarding the maintenance and servicing of their vehicles in order to prevent this kind of tragic accident happening again."

Giving a narrative verdict, Greater Suffolk coroner Peter Dean said: "The accident, on the balance of probabilities, resulted from an air hose becoming disconnected from the near-side brake due to a failure of connection of a new air hose and the brake itself – the fitters' work not being checked initially and the problem not being detected by any subsequent checks."

He made a series of recommendations, adding: "Persistent checking does not seem to have been observed in this particular case.

"If the system is not in place then it needs to be addressed in the interest of preventing similar fatalities.

"The MoD needs to look at those two issues. The vehicle does not possess a lawful certificate.

"The system of checking does not seem to be appropriate in its function or have been conducted as a matter of routine.

"The system needs to be looked at."

But he added: "This does not mean the fatality would not have occurred."

A spokesman for the MoD said last night: "If the coroner has made recommendations we will look at them and give them due consideration."

The inquest had heard how an inspection at the scene failed to discover any fault on the vehicle which crashed, but a second investigation found the recently fitted brake pipe had become unattached.

It was also revealed the truck was scheduled for a mandatory equipment inspection (MEI) in 2002, a form of MOT, but at the time of the crash it had lapsed.

And there was no way of telling whether a "grade one fitter" had double-checked repair work that had been carried out, as is the usual procedure.

Captain Stephen Penfold, who was L-Cpl Passmore's commanding officer at 25 Squadron, 38 Engineer Regiment in Ripon, North Yorkshire, said the vehicle was due its MEI, in June 2002 – four months before the crash.

However, because it had broken down on the way to Germany it had been taken to the Army Base Repair Organisation garage in Flagstaff Road, Colchester, for repairs.

He said that when it was released, the scheduled MEI had lapsed but this was not checked before the vehicle went on the road.

Andrew Purdy, who examined the vehicle after the crash, told the coroner that the air supply to the brakes kept them disengaged and if the hose was not in place then air would escape, causing the hand brake to come on.

The inquest heard that neither L-Cpl Passmore, from Devon, nor the driver, L-Cpl Paul Johnson, who was also injured, were wearing seat belts.

Paul Wales, a lorry driver who witnessed the crash and stopped to help afterwards, said: "Without warning the lorry left the road. It continued across the road and did not appear to slow down, then it rolled over."

L-Cpl Johnson, who was on crutches, said he had no memory of the crash apart from hearing a loud bang from the engine.

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