Suffolk soldier killed by explosion

A 19-YEAR-OLD Royal Anglian was killed by an improvised explosive device while trying to clear a safe path for his comrades on patrol in Afghanistan, an inquest heard.

Private Robert Hayes, a member of Newmarket Rugby Club, was leading his men on a mission to flush out insurgents in Helmand Province, in January when he set off an IED placed in a tower.

North and East Cambridgeshire coroner William Morris, sitting at Wisbech Magistrates’ Court, ruled that Pte Hayes had been unlawfully killed while on active service.

Pte Hayes’s battle group leader, Sgt Ryan Vickery, said a patrol had set out on the morning of January 3 to find insurgent firing positions in the Nad-e-Ali district of Helmand province.

He said Pte Hayes, from Burwell, had volunteered to act as Vallon operator for the group, placing him in charge of searching for IEDs and mines using an Army issue metal detector.

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After coming under fire from insurgents holed up in a tower, Pte Hayes’s patrol sought cover and fired a Javelin missile in the direction of the fire, killing a number of insurgents.

Sgt Vickery said the group then made its way towards the compound, to assess the damage it had caused.

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Pte Hayes took the lead with his metal detector and began sweeping for mines, the court was told. As he began to sweep a set of stairs in a tower within the complex, he triggered an IED and died almost instantly in the blast.

Corporal Joseph Warren said: “The last thing I remember was a big flash and a bang from where Pte Hayes was and the next thing I recall it was completely black and I was covered in rubble.”

Sgt Vickery, who was first on the scene, told the inquest: “At that instant when the device had gone off there was a lot of smoke coming from the area and I was unable to see what had happened to the two.

“I then heard voices on my radio coming from Corporal Warren saying he was stuck so I started digging out rubble. Not long after I started digging I came across some body armour and that is when I found Pte Hayes.”

Pte Hayes, described by colleagues as a “hugely professional and talented soldier”, suffered “massive” injuries in the explosion which, the court heard, were typical of injuries sustained at close proximity to a major blast.

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