Christopher Roney inquest: 'Failures led to friendly fire death'
- 7 September 2012
- From the section Tyne & Wear
The death of a British soldier in a friendly fire attack in Afghanistan was due to "mistaken beliefs and cumulative failures", a coroner has ruled.
L/Cpl Christopher Roney was killed in 2009 when two US Apache helicopters attacked a British base in Afghanistan.
The inquest in Sunderland heard the crews fired 200 rounds before they realised their mistake.
L/Cpl Roney, 23, from Sunderland, was serving in Sangin, Helmand, with the 3rd Battalion The Rifles.
After a five-day hearing Coroner Derek Winter listed a series of errors leading up to the event on the night of 21 December 2009.
He said: "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."
The hearing was told the base had come under attack by insurgents when air support was called in.
British troops on the ground were incorrectly identified as a Taliban compound and were hit by 30mm chain gun rounds leaving 11 injured.
L/Cpl Roney, a married former drayman, received emergency treatment, but died from his injuries the next day.
Recording a narrative verdict, the coroner criticised operational procedures.
He said: "I appreciate the fact that these very tragic events took place in the theatre of war and that there was a very dynamic situation that had to be dealt with.
"However, misplaced assumptions and beliefs became fact and opportunities to reflect and change a course of events were not taken.
"The cumulative effect of the complete loss of the situational awareness ultimately cost Chris his life."
Describing the men on the ground as "true professionals", he said the same could not be said of their superiors, and he would be writing to the Ministry of Defence with recommendations.
The MoD said in a statement: "All of those involved acted with the best intentions to assist their comrades, but tragically mistakes were made.
"Comprehensive investigations have been conducted and key lessons identified. Processes have been updated, training has been enhanced and patrol base mapping has been improved.
"The Army and MoD will now also closely study the coroner's findings as part of our commitment to ensure all possible lessons are learned."