A Royal Irish Regiment soldier who was killed in Afghanistan was shot dead by an RIR comrade in a “tragic accident”, his family said last night.
Ranger David Dalzell was fatally wounded by another RIR soldier after he returned to his base at Nad-e-Ali in Helmand province on Friday.
The 20-year-old, from the Ballyholme area of Bangor, was on his first tour of the war-torn region having joined the battalion just a week before he was deployed.
At the weekend, the MoD said Ranger Dalzell had died in an “operational accident”.
However, the family released details about his death last night, saying it was important that “speculation and rumour ends”.
They said their thoughts were also with the other soldier.
“There has been speculation about the phrase ‘operational accident' which has caused questions about how our son died,” the family said in a statement. “We think it's important for us and David that the speculation and rumour ends.
“David died after being accidentally shot by another soldier while they were back in their operating base.
“We don't know exactly what happened, just that our son was fatally wounded.
“As well as our huge loss which has devastated the family, that other soldier must be suffering and our thoughts are with him as well.”
The family said it had been told an investigation by the Army was under way and it hoped to “learn more from that”.
Last night First Minister Peter Robinson described Ranger Dalzell as a role model for young people.
“David Dalzell’s short life is a shining example for young people throughout Northern Ireland,” he said.
“He joined the Army and devoted his life to making the world a better place and protecting our country and way of life.
“Northern Ireland can be rightly proud to have produced young people of his calibre.”
Lieutenant Colonel Colin Weir, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, said Ranger Dalzell was “an extraordinary young man” who was already much-loved by his fellow soldiers, despite his short time in the Army.
“He took to the field of battle like a natural; he was perfectly at home in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances and his bravery never wavered under fire,” he said.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson said his thoughts and prayers were with Ranger Dalzell's family and friends.