Inquest Into Dorset Soldier's Death

An inquest's heard how two soldiers were killed when a bomb blew their armoured vehicle into the air while on patrol in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Andrew Jones, 35, originally from Newport, South Wales, and Trooper Andrew Howarth, 20, from Wimborne in Dorset were killed on September 18 last year near Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province.

Royal Engineer Sgt Jones was attached to The Queen's Royal Lancers (QRL) and in command of the reinforced Jackal II vehicle and Trooper Howarth from QRL was driving when the massive blast flipped the six-tonne vehicle over.

Captain Jonny Clayton, who was in command, told the hearing in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, that his troop were on patrol in two Jackals because there was an election in Afghanistan.

Capt Clayton said the insurgent threat in the area had been low since the unit had arrived in April, with only some incidents of small arms fire and two improvised explosive devices (IED).

The vehicles were crossing a dried-up canal bed returning back to base when the large pressure activated a 20-25kg IED, probably made from non-metallic materials.

The officer had assessed the crossing as a vulnerable spot and sent out Trooper Michael Wilkes with a Vallon metal detector to check the crossing tracks for IEDs, but nothing was found.

''He could not find anything in the ground and he was there for 20 or 30 minutes. The ground was hard. I was 100% about the crossing,'' Capt Clayton explained.

The first Jackal, with the officer onboard, safely crossed the tracks and the second, with Sgt Jones and Trooper Howarth inside, followed.

''We had moved on and were looking ahead, then the next thing we heard was an explosion and everyone went to help,'' Capt Clayton said.

He got back to the blown-up vehicle, which had been flipped into the opposite direction, and was on its side.

Trooper Howarth was trapped underneath it and dead from the blast. Sgt Jones, a married father-of-three, was thrown from the vehicle severely injured and was evacuated but died later, the hearing was told.

Two others on the Jackal survived almost unscathed.

Wiltshire and Swindon coroner David Ridley recorded verdicts that both men were unlawfully killed while on active service.

Proud Welshman Sgt Jones was married to Joanne and they had three children: Natasha, Caitlin and Liam.

At the time of his death, Mrs Jones said: ''Andrew was a happy, funny and caring man. He was a loving husband, father and son, and he will leave a gaping hole in our lives.''

Trooper Howarth's family said when his death was announced: ''He had a heart of gold and will be deeply missed.

''He was proud to serve his country.

''He quoted before he left for Afghanistan, 'We give our today so you can have your tomorrow'.''

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