Tributes To Bomb Disposal Expert

A British bomb disposal expert working on land mine clearance has died in an explosion in southern Sudan.

Stephen ``Darby'' Allan, 52, from Portsmouth, died after being critically injured while working on a mine clearance site on Friday, the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) said.

The humanitarian organisation said it was "shocked and saddened'' by the death of a "highly qualified and hugely experienced'' member of its international technical team.

The married father-of-two had been leading teams of trained Sudanese mine clearance operatives overseeing the removal of landmines threatening communities around Kapoeta in southern Sudan, MAG said.

Lou McGrath, MAG chief executive, paid tribute to him, saying:

"Darby's death has left all of us in MAG shocked and saddened and we are now focusing all our efforts on providing whatever support we can to his family and loved ones.

"The sacrifice that Darby made to help desperately vulnerable communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon and then Sudan should not be underestimated.

"He was away from his family for long periods, often working in very challenging conditions, but he was always dedicated to the humanitarian impact that his work had.

"There is no doubt that over the last four years Darby's work with MAG has saved countless people's lives, and for that we will never forget him. He will be very greatly missed by all.''

Mr Allan had more than 30 years of experience and was highly commended as an advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) expert before joining MAG in 2006.

A former diver in the Royal Navy, he saw active service in first Gulf War when he acted as chief of the fleet's diving unit deployed to clear Kuwait's harbour, beaches and surrounding areas of explosives.

He later became chief instructor for the Royal Navy clearance diving officers courses in 2003.

Andy Gleeson, from MAG, said:

"Darby was a great team member with a dry humour. A dependable, affable technician who managed several clearance teams with skill and determination.

"His death is a huge loss both to MAG and the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) world.''