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Soldier inquest: Army failed to learn from mistakes

The inquest into the death of a solider who collapsed in hot weather has found there was “very serious failures” by the army to carry out the necessary checks.

Corporal Joshua Hoole, from Ecclefechan in Scotland, died during a march on one of the hottest days of the year in July 2016.

An inquest verdict found his death was not a result of unlawful killing.

The 26-year-old, who was based at Catterick, had been carrying 25kg of equipment when he collapsed just 400m from the end of the eight-mile annual fitness test course in Brecon, Wales.

  • The verdict

An inquest in Birmingham has spent the last few weeks trying to find out how the soldier, described as “fit, capable and determined” died.

Today senior coroner Lousie Hunt found there was a failure by the army to ensure that the Rifles Training Team was aware of enhanced safety measures to keep soldiers safe in hot weather. She said: “As a result the planning and risk assessments were inadequate and not fit for purpose.”

The annual fitness test “should not have taken place” because of the heat, with temperatures up to 31 degrees expected. There was a “very serious failure” to carry out necessary checks.

Ms Hunt said Hoole did not die from heat stroke, but the high temperatures were part of a combination of factors which led to his death. She said he also had an undiagnosed heart vulnerability.

She has “grave concerns” that she is raising the same issues as she did after the death of three reservists in 2013 and concludes that “something has to change.”

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  • The inquest

Senior coroner Lousie Hunt heard that 18 of the 41 soldiers taking part in the exercise pulled out, collapsed or withdrew, a rate of 42%.

The court had previously heard the average drop-out rate on the same route for the whole of the previous year had been 3%.

Cpl Hoole collapsed at 8.52am near the end of the “eight-miler” loaded march over hilly ground, having earlier been described as “panting” and “staggering”.

Earlier on, two other soldiers had collapsed after showing symptoms of heat illness.

But the exercise continued, despite the inquest hearing about a health and safety document directing march commanders to assess whether activities should be halted when heat injuries are suspected.

A key temperature gauge used to determination whether the exercise should have continued at all was also “erroneously” placed in the shade of a building at Dering Lines and incorrectly gave low readings, a heat expert told the inquest.

A previous report concluded that Joshua had an underlying medical condition but his father, Phillip Hoole, rejected that conclusion and successfully applied for the inquest to be resumed.

Phillip Hoole had asked the coroner to return a verdict of unlawful killing and for an investigation into the charge of corporate manslaughter.

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