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Maidstone Capt Ben Babington-Browne died an accidental death in Afghanistan helicopter crash, inquest concludes

By Angela Cole

He was a truly amazing son who achieved more in his short life than most can manage in a lifetime.

That is how Nina Babington-Browne has remembered her son, Capt Ben Babington-Browne today as the inquest into his death finally ended five years on from the fatal helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed him.

Mrs Babington-Browne, supported by her other son Daniel at the hearing at Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone, was described by assistant coroner Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC, as dignified despite her long wait for answers.

Capt Ben Babington-Browne

She said: "Ben was a joy to have from the moment he was born... He was a truly amazing son and a loving brother to Daniel. He grew into a handsome, intelligent, charismatic and an exceptional young man, who set himself endless challenges.

"He was a dedicated officer who loved his job in the Army, and achieved more in his short life than most can manage in a lifetime. I am privileged to have been his mother."

Giving his finding that Capt Babington-Browne died in July 2009 as a result of an accident while on active duty in Afghanistan, Mr Campbell-Tiech set out the lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to get any information from the Canadian authorities, despite repeated assurances from high up sources that they would be.

He said: "The reason for such an inordinate further delay is that it took the appropriate Canadian authorities nearly 14 months to decide what material they were prepared to disclose, and a further three months not in fact to disclose it. Delay that has significantly added to the burden upon the family."

Capt Babington-Browne with his mother Nina and brother Daniel at his passing out parade from Sandhurst

The Griffon CH146434 craft was Canadian and flown by two Canadian pilots. It had been transporting Capt Babington-Browne from a recce at Forward Operating Base Mescall to his base at Kandahar.

It was a very hot afternoon, and the craft took off in a dustball, veering into the perimeter wall within seconds, just feet from the ground. Evidence found the pilot had been unable to see due to the dust, and did not pull up quickly enough to counteract it.

As the British soldier was seated with his legs out of the side of the helicopter, he became trapped when it crashed.

The court heard he died from multiple injuries and inhaling fumes as it burst into flames and ammunition began exploding. Those able to escape "ran for their lives", said Mr Campbell-Tiech.

Although a Board of Inquiry was carried out by the Canadian authorities, no details or statements were released to the UK.

Funeral of Ben Babington Browne at All Saints Church in Maidstone

But using the evidence of expert witness Lt Commander William Robley, who was involved in the Board of Inquiry, he concluded the helicopter was not the correct one of the mission, and that the flight crew were insufficiently trained to take off in a dustball. It was also overloaded and underpowered.

Mr Campbell-Tiech paid tribute to Mrs Babington-Browne, saying: "You have pursued this and by persuing this you have made us concentrate in a way which otherwise things would not have developed in the way they have. I am grateful to you."

Mrs Babington-Browne added: "Since the loss of my precious son Ben on July 6, 2009, we have been searching for answers about what happened to him that day.

"It has taken a long time for us to get to this point, and despite the best efforts by both our legal team and the coroner, significant evidence was withheld from the inquest."

Capt Babington-Browne, a former Maidstone Grammar School pupil, was serving with 22 Engineer Regiment at the time of his death.

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