Afghanistan helicopter crash inquest: Coroner calls for safety improvements

The killed crew (clockwise from top left): Capt Thomas Clarke, WO2 Spencer Faulkner, Flt Lt Rakesh Chauhan, Cpl James Walters, and L/Cpl Oliver Thomas Image copyright MOD
Image caption The killed crew were (clockwise from top left): Capt Thomas Clarke, WO2 Spencer Faulkner, Flt Lt Rakesh Chauhan, Cpl James Walters and L/Cpl Oliver Thomas.

A coroner has called on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to improve safety after the death of five British servicemen in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Oxfordshire Coroner Darren Salter has written to the MoD saying fatigue and a lack of training could have contributed to the accident.

He also suggested flight recorders could be installed on newer aircraft.

The men died during training when an Army Air Corps Lynx crashed 12 miles from Kandahar airbase in 2014.

Mr Salter recorded a narrative verdict and said a proximity alarm telling the crew they were going to crash had not been correctly set up.

He called on the MoD to review manning levels within air squadrons and the strain put on individual service personnel.

In a statement, the family of L/Cpl Oliver Thomas said they felt "very let down" by the MoD.

"His future was tragically taken away from him and us," it said.

"As the coroner said, this was a case of controlled flight into terrain, due to lack of situational awareness and misjudgement of height."

The family of Capt Thomas Clarke said there were still "significant question marks" over how the accident happened.

'Hope lessons are learned'

Father-of-two Spencer Faulkner was on his "last operation" and had been due to retire after serving for 22 years with the military, his widow Cally said.

After the inquest she added: "Nothing can ever bring Spencer back to us but we hope that lessons will be learned from this incident to reduce the risk of similar accidents in future."

A previous official report concluded the helicopter was serviceable and under the control of the crew when it was accidentally flown into the ground.

The inquest was told WO Faulkner's voice could be heard on the flight recording shouting "pull up" three times, moments before the helicopter hit the ground.

It had descended 25ft (7.5m) in half a second, despite attempts to halt the descent.

The aircraft was from a squadron based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

The crew

  • Captain Thomas Clarke, from Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan, was the pilot
  • Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner, who lived in Burghfield Common in Berkshire, was the aircraft commander
  • Corporal James Walters, from Leedstown in Cornwall, was the air crewman
  • RAF Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, from Cropston in Leicestershire, was an intelligence specialist
  • Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, from Brecon in Powys, was an intelligence operator

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