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Dead soldier 'holding water bottle'

Published 09/06/2015

James Dunsby died after collapsing in the Brecon Beacons
James Dunsby died after collapsing in the Brecon Beacons

An Army reservist who collapsed amid "heatwave" conditions on an SAS selection march was found dead while still clutching a bottle of water, an inquest has heard.

In a graphic account of how Edward Maher was found sitting on a hillside, an Army team medic said the Lance Corporal had initially appeared to be simply resting.

The medic, known by the cipher 1N, told the hearing in to the deaths of three SAS hopefuls that L/Cpl Maher was cold to the touch when he reached him.

The Birmingham Coroner has heard that L/Cpl Maher, a former regular soldier with the Royal Green Jackets, and two other reservists, died during or after a 16-mile march on July 13 2013.

Describing how L/Cpl Maher was found near a checkpoint, 1N told the inquest: "He was sitting in a completely natural position, almost like he was just having a Condor moment, just having a rest.

"He had a half-eaten chocolate bar in one hand and his water bottle in the other."

From a distance of around 200 metres, 1N said, he had wrongly thought L/Cpl Maher was resting, but when he arrived at his side it was apparent he was not breathing.

The team medic, a Signals regiment soldier who had previously undergone special forces selection, then began CPR and requested an immediate casualty evacuation.

Timings generated from L/Cpl Maher's emergency beacon suggest that 1N found the Hampshire-born reservist at around 4.45pm.

Estimating that he battled single-handedly to revive the 31-year-old for around 45 minutes, 1N added: "Two medics were despatched from checkpoint four in a Land Rover, however they got 'bogged in' trying to access my location."

The inquest heard that although controllers used a mobile phone to update 1N about the impending arrival of an air ambulance, another soldier nearby was unable to communicate with him.

The same air ambulance which attended L/Cpl Craig Roberts, who also died, arrived at the site where L/Cpl Maher was found at about 5.30pm and he was pronounced dead.

Earlier, the inquest heard that a civilian passer-by was asked to fan down Corporal James Dunsby, who died in hospital from multi-organ failure.

The walker, who was not named, was also instructed to hold the head of Cpl Dunsby while four other soldiers carried him on a stretcher.

Cpl Dunsby, 31, died at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital on July 30, 2013.

Soldiers known by the ciphers 1K and 1M told how they both joined efforts by two other servicemen to help Cpl Dunsby.

After Cpl Dunsby, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, was placed on a stretcher, 1K said, the hill-walker was told to fan him as he was moved to a car park on the A470.

In a statement read to the court by the coroner, a senior paramedic with 23 years of experience said Cpl Dunsby's temperature was the highest he had ever encountered.

In his statement, Welsh Ambulance Service clinical team leader Damon James, based in Merthyr Tydfil, said Cpl Dunsby's body appeared to be "shutting down" and he did not think he would survive.

Another ambulance service worker told the hearing that Cpl Dunsby's temperature was recorded at 40.4C (104.7F) and his pulse rate at 138.

Additional statements from medical staff read out by the coroner confirmed that Cpl Dunsby was transferred from Merthyr's Prince Charles Hospital to Birmingham in a Sea King helicopter on July 16.

The experienced reservist had been diagnosed as having liver, kidney and bone marrow failure, and was feared to have suffered neurological damage.

During his treatment, a liver transplant was considered but was rejected due to several factors, including damage to other organs.

Although treatment plans were followed to the letter, the inquest heard, Cpl Dunsby's condition deteriorated and he died of multi-organ failure caused by heatstroke 17 days after his collapse.

The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.

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