THE brother of “friendly-fire” soldier Christopher Roney today branded military authorities “negligent” after a coroner ruled a string of failures led to his death
Lance Corporal Christopher Roney, of 3rd Battalion the Rifles, was killed after a US Apache attack helicopter fired on his base in Afghanistan in 2009.
The pilots and a British command centre co-ordinating them mistakenly though they were firing on an enemy compound.
Yesterday, a coroner ruled failures by the British Army cost the Sunderland solider his life in the “friendly fire” incident.
Speaking after the hearing, William Roney, also a serving solider, has critised the MoD.
Staff Sgt Roney, who is due to fly out to Afghanistan, said that evidence supplied had been “written and worded cleverly to make this incident look at lot less serious than what it actually was”.
“The clever use of words and phrases of late, like ‘the fog of war’, which the military gave to the papers instead of saying what we believe should have been said, which is negligence, plain and simple,” he said.
“This has upset the family considerably and gives the family the impression that Chris and his comrades who were injured that night mean very little to the Army and MoD.”
The inquest heard how, as darkness fell, Patrol Base Almas was shaken by a Taliban bomb so powerful that it shook pictures on the wall of the command centre 3km away.
Troops had successfully fought off an attack by insurgents, when without their knowledge, two attack helicopters were called into help.
But confusion at the command centre meant Almas - which was not on any maps - was mistakenly identified as an enemy compound and British troops as Taliban fighters.
One helicopter unleased 200 rounds of 30mm chaingun fire into the remote base, leaving L/Corp Roney with horrific wounds and seriously injuring seven of the 28 soldiers, including Sunderland Rifleman Alex Swinhoe, who was just 19 when he lost part of his left leg in the attack.
L/Corp Roney, who grew up in Silksworth, was airlifted to hospital at Camp Bastion, but died the following day.
He left widow Lorna and five-month-old son, William.
The inquest in Sunderland heard a series of “mistaken beliefs and cumulative failures” led to the dad-of-one’s death.
There was harrowing evidence from soldiers on the ground, including platoon medic L/Corp Emma Henderson who broke down after she told the hearing how L/Corp Roney was “unrecognisable” when he was brought to her.
After a five-day hearing, Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter listed a series of errors made leading up to the tragedy.
He ruled: “L/Cpl Christopher Roney died as a consequence of assumptions made, mistaken beliefs and cumulative failures by friendly forces to appropriately assess the totality of their situational awareness in respect of the ongoing events at and in the vicinity of Patrol Base Almas on December 21, 2009.
“The deployment and use by friendly forces of attack helicopters was done in circumstances that ought to have been assessed by them to conclude sooner than they did that their target was not an enemy force and that the attack should be aborted.”
Senior Army officers based at the command centre gave the Apaches a series of grid references close to Almas, a former Afghan compound bought a few weeks before the tragedy.
But they did not inform the Apache crews about the location of the patrol base, which was just 15-metres from the enemy target and the pilots did not ask for the specific location of friendly forces.
Mistakes were also made over images relayed from two cameras - one attached to an unmanned drone - and a second base monitoring the situation mistook British mortar illumination rounds for enemy fire.
Although no-one will face prosecution over the friendly fire incident, it is thought injured soldiers could sue the MoD for negligence.
Coroner Derek Winter said: “I appreciate the fact that these very tragic events took place in the theatre of war and there was a very dynamic situation that had to be dealt with.
“These were very challenging conditions.”
However, he added that lessons must be learnt and he will write to the Secretary of State for Defence with recommendations.