Civilian ‘helped collapsed soldier’


Published: Tuesday 9th June 2015 by The News Editor

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A civilian passer-by was asked to fan down a heat-stricken Army reservist who died after collapsing on an SAS test march, an inquest has heard.

The walker, who was not named at the hearing into the deaths of three reservists, was also instructed to hold the head of Corporal James Dunsby while four other soldiers carried him on a stretcher.

Cpl Dunsby, 31, died at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in July 2013, two weeks after collapsing on the Brecon Beacons.

Giving evidence to the seventh day of the inquest in Solihull, soldiers known by the ciphers 1K and 1M told how they both joined efforts by two other servicemen to help Cpl Dunsby.

The witnesses, who had been manning the most northeasterly march checkpoint, were deployed to help Cpl Dunsby between the summit of Pen y Fan and the A470, near Beacons Reservoir.

In his evidence, 1K, an instructor with a regular Army Signals regiment, said: “A civilian had approached us offering us assistance pretty much at the time myself and a colleague arrived at the scene.

“I told him just to wait back. I said: ‘We may require your assistance shortly’.”

After Cpl Dunsby, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, was placed on a stretcher, 1K said, the civilian was told to fan him as he was moved to a car park on the A470.

Soldier 1M, a Scottish reservist with 12 years of service, was acting as a member of directing staff during the SAS test-week march on July 13.

He told the coroner that the civilian was asked to hold Cpl Dunsby’s head and monitor his breathing during his extraction from the hillside.

During a series of questions to 1M, the Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Louise Hunt asked for his views on whether further marches in the week leading up to July 13 may have helped reserve candidates to “acclimatise” to the hot conditions.

The inquest heard that when 1M took part in a summer SAS “selection” course in 2003, further hill walks were held in the run-up to test-week.

The coroner said to 1M: “You expressed a view (in your statement) that when you did the selection process, the week before the test had been spent in the hills doing marches. Do you think that’s a significant factor – that they didn’t do that – in what happened?”

Giving evidence from inside a screened off witness box, 1M answered: “Decisions like that are made higher up.”

Ms Hunt pressed the witness as to whether he believed further preparation marches may have helped the reservist candidates.

Soldier 1M then responded: “It may have.”

Cpl Dunsby, who collapsed from heat illness near a main road, is said to have been moving “between running and a fast walk” on the final leg of the march.

Another candidate for the reserve SAS, known by the codename 4Y, told the inquest yesterday: “He ran on ahead, saying he could make the time. I said to him ‘I’m sorry, I can’t. I can’t go at that pace’ and that is the last time I saw him.”

In a statement read to the court by the coroner, a senior paramedic with 23 years of experience said Cpl Dunsby’s temperature was the highest he had ever encountered.

In his statement, Welsh Ambulance Service clinical team leader Damon James, based in Merthyr Tydfil, said Cpl Dunsby’s body appeared to be “shutting down” and he did not think he would survive.

Another ambulance service worker told the hearing that Cpl Dunsby’s temperature was recorded at 40.4C (104.7F) and his pulse rate at 138.

A further military casualty, who was walking and conscious, was also taken by ambulance to hospital in Merthyr from the same car park.

In his statement, Mr James said he was initially told there were three people “on the hill” in cardiac arrest.

After arriving at the car park, Mr James said, he was approached by an Army officer who said he was in charge.

The clinical team leader stated: “He told me the male (Cpl Dunsby) had been on a four-day exercise and was half an hour from the finish.

“He said the male had collapsed about 100 yards up the track. He said they had carried plenty of water but were pushing themselves to the limit.”

Additional statements from medical staff read out by the coroner confirmed that Cpl Dunsby was transferred from Merthyr’s Prince Charles Hospital to Birmingham in a Sea King helicopter on July 16.

The experienced reservist had been diagnosed as having liver, kidney and bone marrow failure, and was feared to have suffered neurological damage.

During his treatment, a liver transplant was considered but was rejected due to several factors, including damage to other organs.

Although treatment plans were followed to the letter, the inquest heard, Cpl Dunsby’s condition deteriorated and he died of multi-organ failure caused by heatstroke 17 days after his collapse.

Published: Tuesday 9th June 2015 by The News Editor

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