AN army medic fought back tears as she described how she tried to save the life of Lance Corporal Christopher Roney.
The third day of an inquest into the 23-year-old’s death in a so-called “friendly fire” attack heard how British troops ran for cover as a U.S. Apache attack helicopter sprayed 200 rounds of ammunition into their patrol base in Sangin, Helmand.
Troops of 3rd Battalion The Rifles had just seen off an attack by insurgents who detonated a large bomb at the compound, in December 2009, when two Apaches were called in as back-up.
But confusion at command headquarters meant the American pilots were given a series of grid references close to Patrol Base Almas – which was not on any official maps – and the British were wrongly identified as enemy forces.
Platoon medic L/Cpl Emma Henderson said L/Cpl Roney was unrecognisable when he was brought in for treatment.
“I talked to Chris throughout because I knew he could hear me,” she said.
“With every treatment I was doing, I told him what I was doing so he would not feel alone and know what treatment he was getting.”
Soldiers reported red splashes of explosions in the darkness as the Apache made two strafes across the compound, unleashing 30mm chain gun fire, which left seven men injured.
Senior officers battled with a damaged communications systems in a bid to pass a message through to have the helicopters called off.
Occupational psychologist Jackie Cameron analysed the incident for the Ministry of Defence and highlighted errors made in the highly-pressurised situation.
The Apache crews had been told there were no friendly forces around the grid references they were sent to, and they did not pick up on visual clues on the ground that the base was British, she said.
“The visual indicators were the body armour worn by the personnel, flag poles that were visible, the perimeter wire running around the base and the uniformity of the individuals - they all appeared to be wearing trousers and helmets rather than the dress you might expect from local nationals,” she told the inquest.
“It appears they (the crews) were primed to be looking at the enemy and therefore failed to pick up clues to the contrary.”
She acknowledged that the British Army staff - not at Almas - who provided the grid references used by the US pilots were working under challenging conditions, but “information overload” led to errors.
L/Corp Roney was airlifted to hospital at Camp Bastion, where he died the following day.
He left a wife, Lorna and five-month old son, William.
The inquest continues.