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Nimrod safety failings led to huge fireball

FLT SGT GARY ANDREWS: One of 14 servicemen killed
FLT SGT GARY ANDREWS: One of 14 servicemen killed

AN RAF aircraft explosion which killed 14 servicemen, including one from Kent, was caused by a probable fuel leak, an inquiry has found.

A Nimrod MR2 exploded in Afghanistan last September after an air-to-air refuelling, killing 48-year-old Flight Sgt Gary Wayne Andrews, from Tankerton, near Whitstable, along with the other men.

A report on the accident by the Ministry of Defence’s Board of Inquiry concluded that fuel had probably escaped into a bay on the starboard side of the aircraft during an air-to-air refuelling, either because of a leaking coupling or an overflowing tank.

The leaked fuel is thought to have caught fire when it made contact with hot air pipes as hot as 400C in the craft.

The age of the Nimrod’s components and lack of on-board fire detectors were also mentioned as possible contributing factors in the report.

The incident was the biggest loss of life in a single incident for the armed forces since the Falklands War.

Defence Secretary Des Browne apologised to relatives of the victims and said there would be a review of the airworthiness and safe operation of the Nimrod MR2 to ensure the tragedy is not repeated.

He said: "We are learning the lessons from the accident and have already implemented many of the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry report."

The crew lost in the explosion were praised for their "calm professionalism’ and the report found that "they did everything possible to save their aircraft".

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Glenn Torpy, said: "Their families, friends and colleagues should be very proud of them all."

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