Northern Ireland corporal joked as he tackled booby-trap bomb that killed him
A Royal Marine killed by a bomb blast in Afghanistan said moments before the explosion “if anything goes off now my wife will never forgive me”, an inquest has heard.
Corporal Stephen ‘Whisky’ Walker, of A Company 40 Commando Royal Marines, had been dispatched on May 21 last year to head a section searching for an improvised explosive device (IED) near Patrol Base Almas, in Sangin, Helmand province.
The Lisburn soldier had been informed by a local that an IED was believed to have been planted in the area.
The inquest at Trowbridge, Wiltshire, heard that Cpl Walker's section were searching a field using Vallon metal detectors when they spotted a hay bale which looked out of place and the wrong colour.
Cpl Walker also discovered a wire which he suspected might have been a command wire for an IED.
As the discovery was radioed in to the patrol base, he climbed into an irrigation ditch in a bid to trace the source of the wire when the explosion happened. Lance Corporal Gary Sinar, who was one of two Vallon operators in Cpl Walker's section, described how he went into the irrigation ditch, which was waist-deep in water.
L/Cpl Sinar, who suffered a perforated ear drum in the blast, said: “Steve went into the irrigation ditch because it was so dense with the trees, he wanted to get a better look where this command wire was going to.
“I was on one knee and I was about to stand up and ask Steve if he was getting on all right, if he had seen anything, when the blast went off.
“I remember him saying split seconds before the blast went off: ‘If anything goes off now my wife will never forgive me'.”
The inquest heard that the explosion killed Cpl Walker instantaneously and seriously injured Marine Ed Hawkins.
He was evacuated from the scene by helicopter for medical treatment.
He was later transferred back to the UK for further treatment to his injuries. An investigation found a second IED at the location. Coroner David Ridley said he believed the bomb that killed Cpl Walker would have been a similar device.
He said that Cpl Walker died of blast injuries caused by an explosion and recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. Speaking to Cpl Walker's widow Leona, he added: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences, he was a brave soldier.”
In a statement released after Cpl Walker's death, Mrs Walker paid tribute to the 42-year-old Northern Irishman as a “fantastic dad” and a “perfect soulmate”.
Cpl Walker joined the Royal Navy in 1986 before transferring to the Royal Marines in 1990.
During his 20 years with the Royal Marines he served in Northern Ireland, southern Turkey and Iraq before being sent to Afghanistan.
His company was responsible for providing security for the people of Sangin during his latest deployment.
Originally from Lisburn, Co Antrim, he lived in Exmouth, Devon, with his wife and their daughter Greer. He also leaves behind a son Samuel.
His widow said: “Steve was passionate, loyal and determined. He enjoyed the role he had in the Marines but he was a family man at heart. Life goes on, but it will never be the same for us.”