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Inquest hears that mine blast killed Cpl Sean Violino in Afghanistan

by Alan Smith



family of a soldier killed in action while in Afghanistan has raised concerns about the lack of air cover and told ministers they should do some "soul-searching".

Diane Bell said after the inquest into the death of her son, Corporal Ivano Violino, she was concerned about the implications for other soldiers still serving in Afghanistan.

She said: "Air cover was requested and was not provided. It would not have helped my son, but the boys out there should have all the air cover they need."

She told commanding officer Lt Col Gerald Ewart–Brookes: "It makes me very angry that you are out there to do an important job and you are not getting the support you need. You’re like a sculptor without a chisel."

Speaking for the family, Cpl Violino’s father-in-law Paul Bearsley expressed their gratitude to 36 Engineer Regiment for the support they had received following their loss, and to the coroner for conducting a fair and thorough inquiry.

But he said: "I would also like to ask the politicians to do some soul-searching, to look into their heart of hearts, and to tell me if it was their sons and daughters out there that they would feel confident that everything possible was being done to protect them."

Corporal Sean Violino
Corporal Sean Violino

Cpl Violino, known as Sean, from Kings Hill, died on September 17, 2007, when a pressure-pad bomb detonated underneath the wheel of his dumpster truck.

He was the first fatality sustained by the 20 Field Squadron, 36 Engineer Regiment, based in Maidstone, during the current conflict in Afghanistan.

Deputy assistant coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks ruled on Wednesday that Cpl Violino was "Killed in action while on Her Majesty’s service".

Speaking at the end of a three-day hearing in Tunbridge Wells, Mr Sutton-Maddocks said that the cause of Cpl Violino’s death had been blast wounds sustained as a result of an explosion by an improvised explosive device.

Expressing his sympathy to family, he said: "Young men and women have been leaving our shores for centuries to serve our country abroad. Their sacrifices can be seen only too vividly in the cemeteries at Flanders, at Normandy and across the world."

"It is to the courage and dedication of men such as Cpl Violino that we all owe so much."

Although the inquest heard that Lt Col Ewart-Brookes, the officer commanding the re-supply convoy in which Cpl Violino was travelling, had not asked for air cover on the stretch of the route where the explosion occurred, he had earlier asked for air cover when the convoy travelled through the town of Gereskh which had not materialised.

Cpl Violino, 29, was a passenger in a Volvo FL12 truck which was returning to Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand Province, after being used in the construction of the Arnhem forward operating base.

The FL12, essentially a construction vehicle, at that time was unarmoured, but since then the inquest heard that moves had been made to protect the vehicle.

Mrs Bell said: "A lesson has been learnt from Sean’s death. They realised the FL12s needed protection and now something has been done.

"Hopefully this will prevent what happened to my son happening to others."

Lt Col Ewart–Brookes had described how the convoy was little more than a kilometre out of FOB Arnhem when the mine went off.

Although close to the "green zone" where the Taliban were based, Lt Col Ewart-Brookes said he "did not regard the area as a specifically high–threat location" and for that reason the convoy was not sweeping for mines as they progressed.

The convoy had passed safely through the area on the way into Arnhem earlier that morning.

The convoy was protected by six WMIK Land Rovers, heavily armed patrol vehicles, and was under the eye of a recce force from the forward operating base on high ground nearby.

Lt Col Ewart-Brookes said he had not asked for air cover as it was unnecessary – the terrain offered no cover for enemy forces to be hiding.

As soon as the mine went off, the convoy stopped and an Estonian mine-sweeping team cleared a path for the medics with the convoy to reach Cpl Violino.

Lt Col Ewart-Brookes praised the courage of the Estonians, saying: "They took an enormous personal risk to get to the casualties as quickly as possible."

The driver of the dumpster, LCpl Govinda Tamang, a Gurkha with 36 Engineers, was thrown out of the truck by the blast. He was in shock, but escaped uninjured.

Two medics travelling with the convoy, WO Christopher Kempton and LCpl Joseph Wood, both now civilians, were unable to revive Cpl Violino. He was evacuated by Apache helicopter about "40 to 50 minutes" after the explosion.

Lt Col Ewart-Brookes said that such a wait was not unusual, as the evacuation helicopter would not be launched until a safe area for it to land had been cleared at the scene.

Dr Nicholas Hunt, who carried out a post mortem examination on Cpl Violino said that the massive blast travelling upwards through the body had severely fractured the skull and caused bleeding around the brain.

In addition there had been serious injuries to the neck caused by the body armour that Cpl Violino was wearing being thrust powerfully upwards.

When pressed by the Mr Sutton–Mattocks whether the wait for helicopter evacuation would have been significant, Dr Hunt agreed that if Cpl Violino had sustained his injuries actually inside an emergency hospital, Dr Hunt would still not have expected Cpl Violino to have survived.

After the evacuation, the convoy proceeded, but suffered a second explosion from a mine before reaching its destination. On that occasion there were no casualties.

Cpl Violino leaves a wife, Katey, who lives in Maidstone, and nine-year-old twins Ellie and Lewis from a previous relationship.

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