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I would also have died if I continued Army march, soldier tells inquest

Corporal Joshua Hoole collapsed and died during the same annual fitness test in the Brecon Beacons in July 2015.

Corporal Joshua Hoole died after collapsing during an Army fitness test in very hot weather (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Corporal Joshua Hoole died after collapsing during an Army fitness test in very hot weather (Andrew Milligan/PA)

By Richard Vernalls, PA

A soldier who pulled out of an Army march during which another colleague fatally collapsed has told an inquest he “would have died” if he had not stopped.

Corporal Joshua Hoole, described as “fit, capable and determined”, died within an hour of collapsing during an annual fitness test (AFT) in the Brecon Beacons in mid-Wales on the morning of July 19 2016.

Cpl Hoole, of Ecclefechan, near Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, died three years after three Army reservists suffered fatal heat illness during an SAS selection march in the same area.

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Corporal Joshua Hoole’s coffin is carried into Crichton Memorial Church in Dumfries by Army colleagues and his brother, Tyrone (right) (Andrew Milligan/PA)

On Wednesday, an inquest into Cpl Hoole’s death heard that soldiers were aware it was expected to be “the hottest day of the year” and the march start time had been brought forward because of that.

Of the 41 corporals and lance corporals taking part in the AFT that day, 18 pulled out, collapsed or withdrew – a rate of 42%.

The inquest has already heard that the average drop-out rate on the same route for the whole of the previous year had been 3%.

Cpl Hoole collapsed at 8.52am, just 400m from the end of the “eight-miler” loaded march, with one soldier describing colleagues carrying out CPR almost immediately after he went down.

Earlier on in the route, Corporal Anasa Matau, then with 1 Rifles, had pulled out with a suspected heat injury.

Other soldiers who came across Cpl Matau described finding him lying down on the pavement with his “eyes rolling back in his head”.

His collapse had followed that of Corporal George Knight, who had “blacked out” and fallen into a hedgerow while coming up the course’s second hill.

Giving evidence to the inquest, Cpl Matau said: “All I know, I was running towards water stop four, and that’s when it starts to hit me – the heat and exhaustion.”

I'm strong-minded and I told myself I needed to sit down and take my kit off Corporal Anasa Matau

He added: “My core body was hot, I had salty deposits around my mouth and hands, and I told myself I thought I was dehydrated.

“I’m strong-minded and I told myself I needed to sit down and take my kit off.”

He described being so confused that he was trying to get his combat shirt off, without removing his day-sack.

Cpl Matau was driven to Dering Lines Barracks, where the march had started, and needed to be put in a wheelchair when he got there.

Later, at hospital in Abergavenny, he was found to have blood in his urine.

He told Birmingham Coroner’s Court: “They just told me ‘If you would have continued, you would have died’.”

Cpl Matau described Cpl Hoole as a “best mate” and “brilliant soldier” who was very fit, and who had never been known to give up on anything.

Another march soldier, Serjeant Daniel Dubose, then a corporal with 5 Rifles, had to briefly drop back with “bad cramps”, but, as he caught up, saw Cpl Hoole collapsing.

He said: “I could see the back of the AFT and it was at that point I saw Cpl Hoole – it looked like he fainted.”

Sjt Dubose said he went “straight over” and, describing Cpl Hoole, said: “His skin was grey, eyes glazed, and instantly I wanted to help.”

But he said colleagues “already had his shirt off, kit off and were already conducting CPR”.

Asked what he thought of the weather that day, Sjt Dubose said: “The heat didn’t bother me, it was just my legs.”

Earlier, the inquest heard about a potential six-minute discrepancy in the timeline of evidence on the day.

It related to a mismatch in the timing between when the safety vehicle – a minibus that picked up soldiers dropping out of the march – arriving at a location, and a phone call directing the minibus to get to that location.

Barrister Dijen Basu, for the Ministry of Defence, said: “What the service inquiry was concerned about is that the telephone call was made six minutes after they were already there.”

Senior Coroner Louise Hunt said: “I will reach conclusions based on the evidence I hear or see in the course of this inquest.”

The inquest continues.

PA

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