Tyne & Wear

L/Cpl Christopher Roney: Family praise platoon medic

L/Cpl Christopher Roney
Image caption L/Cpl Christopher Roney died a day after being injured

The family of a British soldier killed in a friendly fire attack in Afghanistan have publicly thanked the Army medic who tried to save his life.

L/Cpl Christopher Roney, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, died and 11 others were injured at Base Almas in Helmand, in December 2009.

An inquest in Sunderland heard US helicopter gunships mistook British soldiers for Taliban insurgents.

His family praised platoon medic Cpl Emma Henderson for trying to save him.

The inquest into L/Cpl Roney's death was told British commanders asked for US air support after a Taliban bomb attack on the base.

The Apache helicopter attack went on for seven minutes before the mistake was realised.

Cpl Henderson said L/Cpl Roney was unrecognisable when he was brought in for treatment after being hit by some of the 200 rounds fired in the helicopter assault.

'Scenes of chaos'

She said: "I talked to Chris throughout everything I did, I knew he could still hear me even though he was unresponsive.

"He knew he was not alone and he was receiving the treatment that was required."

She said she stayed by his side until a specialist helicopter arrived to fly him to Camp Bastion, where he died the next day.

William Roney, the dead soldier' s brother, told her: "On behalf of myself and the family, thank you very much."

Image caption Cpl Emma Henderson was thanked by L/Cpl Roney's family

A statement was read out to the inquest from Cpl Lee Brownson, who died in an IED explosion a month after the Base Almas attack. He was posthumously awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his bravery in rescuing two men in the aftermath of the Taliban bomb on the base.

His statement said he realised Apaches were attacking the base while it was going on and shouted out a warning of a "blue on blue situation".

He said there were "scenes of chaos" in the Ops room, where staff were battling with a damaged communications system to get the message through to call off the helicopters.

Cpl Brownson heard shouts of "Man down" and attended to L/Cpl Roney, who had been manning a corner of the base, known as a sanger.

The statement concluded: "When I got inside he was not moving at all."

Earlier Rifleman Alex Swinhoe told how he lost a leg in the helicopter attack.

He said he was hit and fell from a roof, where he and other British soldiers were fighting off the enemy attack.

Visual indicators

Giving evidence, Rifleman Swinhoe, who now has a prosthetic leg, said the Apache attack "came out of nowhere".

He said: "I fell off the roof and on to the floor. I seemed all right. I couldn't feel anything, I just thought something must be wrong."

He was taken to the Ops room for medical attention where L/Cpl Roney, from Sunderland, was being treated.

He added: "I looked over and saw Chris lying there. He looked in a bad way."

Image caption US helicopters thought the British-held compound was a Taliban base

It was only when he returned to the UK and was receiving treatment in Birmingham that he was told that the devastating fire came from a US helicopter.

Occupational psychologist Jackie Cameron, who analysed the incident for the Ministry of Defence, said the Apache crews, who were acting on information from British commanders, failed to pick up on visual clues on the ground that the base was British.

She told the inquest: "The visual indicators were the body armour worn by the personnel, flag poles that were visible, the perimeter wire running around the base and that they all appeared to be wearing trousers and helmets, rather than the dress you might expect from local nationals.

"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 British Army staff who provided the grid references used by the US pilots were working under challenging conditions but "information overload" led to errors.

The inquest is expected to end on Friday.

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