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Soldiers' inquest hears of problems

There were problems with people overloading electrical appliances at the military base where two soldiers died in a massive fire, an inquest heard.

Privates Rob Wood, 28, and Dean Hutchinson, 23, were killed when fire swept through a logistical centre at Camp Bastion in Helmand province in the early hours of February 14 2011.

The soldiers, who served with The Royal Logistic Corps, were sleeping in the tented Transport Troop office so they could respond more quickly when vital supplies arrived at the military base.

Eyewitnesses have described smelling smoke coming from the area housing a 32-inch flat screen TV, boiler and fridge and seeing flames coming from cabling leading to the air conditioning unit.

Fire investigators have concluded that the blaze started in the vicinity of the electrical appliances and quickly spread, igniting combustible materials stored nearby.

Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner David Ridley has already heard evidence that there were power cuts at Camp Bastion and also problems reported with the lights and air conditioning.

Major Gary Jenkins, who was second in command of Camp Bastion during Operation Herrick 13, told the inquest in Salisbury that he was aware of two previous fires at the base - with one caused by the overloading of power sockets - known as "daisy chaining".

"One was daisy chaining. In some of the contractors' accommodation they ran four or five extension leads together and they put foil around the fuse, so it would not cut out," he said.

"When we had a fire we would have separate meetings with contractors and get them all in and explain why they couldn't do this."

Senior officers would carry out spot checks to ensure that daisy chaining was not happening and that extension sockets had the "CE" mark and also a safety light.

Major Jenkins said that when he first arrived at Camp Bastion he stopped a local Afghan shop on the base selling Chinese-made extension sockets because he was concerned they were not up to standard.

He said there were many different companies and nationalities working as contractors at Camp Bastion but he never had to hold a meeting with representatives from infrastructure provider KBR about overloading.

The inquest has heard that KBR was responsible for the maintenance of fire alarms, hard wired smoke detectors and the four-way blue domestic power units.

However, they were not responsible for maintaining battery-powered smoke detectors or any appliances plugged into the power units.

Pte Wood, known as "Woody", had become a father to a boy, Noah, shortly before he died. He was a driver port operator, posted to 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, and lived in Marchwood, Hampshire.

Pte Hutchinson, from Spennymoor, County Durham, was a driver and had seven years' service with the Army.

The inquest was adjourned until Monday.


From Belfast Telegraph