Six British soldiers died in fireball on patrol in Afghanistan, inquest hears

Armoured vehicle blast from IED in Helmand caused UK forces’ biggest single loss of life for seven years

Six soldiers were killed when their Warrior armoured vehicle was turned into a “fireball” by a huge roadside bomb as they patrolled in Afghanistan, an inquest has been told.

Colleagues who rushed to help the men described hearing ammunition ignite in the Warrior after the massive explosion and bullets ricocheting inside the vehicle.

The incident in March last year remains the biggest single loss of life for British forces since an RAF Nimrod crash in Afghanistan killed 14 people seven years ago.

The deaths of the six men took the toll of British deaths in Afghanistan past 400, and refocused attention on the reason for British troops being in the country.

It happened at a time when the threat of attack from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the area was thought low, the inquest in Oxford was told.

The hearing was also told that one of the soldiers who died, 19-year-old Christopher Kershaw, was on board only because he had volunteered at the last minute to take a colleague’s place.

Kershaw died alongside Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 33, Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, and Privates Anthony Frampton, 20, Daniel Wade, 20, and Daniel Wilford, 21, during the incident in Helmand province on 6 March 2012.

The inquest heard it was most likely that all the men were either killed or knocked unconscious by the huge blast, and unaware of what happened afterwards.

Known by the call-sign K12, the Warrior was patrolling with another vehicle when it was hit by an IED in Helmand. The force of the explosion turned it upside down and blew off its gun turret. Ammunition on board the vehicle ignited, causing a fierce fire.

The inquest on Wednesday heard that the patrol had been scheduled to leave earlier that day but was delayed because of a sandstorm. It eventually left just after 6.30pm, and was blown up a few minutes later.

Soldiers in a second Warrior vehicle, given the call-sign K13, reported hearing an explosion then seeing a fireball.

In a statement read to the court, Private Luke Stones described how Kershaw, who was driving the Warrior, had volunteered to take the place of another soldier on the patrol.

“Private Butler would have been the driver of K12 but he was returning from the shower and as a result Pte Kershaw offered to take his place,” he said.

Stones, who was the gunner in the second Warrior, said he heard a large explosion just five minutes after leaving the base. “Around 20 metres to my front was a large fireball, which had flames reaching around it,” he said. “I stood staring at the fireball, not really understanding what I was looking at.”

The blast had blown the armoured vehicle on to its side, and blew its gun turret off, the inquest heard.

As they cleared a safe path to the Warrior and tried to put the blaze out, colleagues from the second vehicle described hearing ammunition ignite and ricochet inside …read more