North East Wales

Tributes to Wrexham airman James Smart in Italy crash

Senior Aircraftman James Smart
Image caption SAC Smart was on his fifth convoy when he was killed

Tributes have been paid to a Royal Air Force serviceman killed in a road accident in southern Italy.

Senior Aircraftman James Smart, 22, from Wrexham, was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy when it left the road in the Abruzzo region.

Chester-born SAC Smart, of No 2 (Mechanical Transport) Squadron, was taking supplies to UK forces involved in military action in Libya.

His family described him as "a small man with a big heart".

"No one could have had a better son," they said in a statement.

"He brought joy and happiness to everyone who met him. He was proud to serve his country and died doing something he loved."

Falkland Islands

Before joining the RAF, SAC Smart was previously a member of the Territorial Army, his squadron said.

He was posted to 2 (MT) Squadron, based at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire, in November 2008.

Between May and September 2010, he served in Afghanistan, and was due to receive his operational medal on 1 August.

After returning from Afghanistan, he was deployed to the Falkland Islands between October 2010 and January this year.

He was on his fifth convoy in support of UK forces involved in the Libyan intervention when he died near Vasto, in Southern Italy, on Wednesday.

Gp Capt Richard Hill, the officer in charge of RAF Wittering, said "Smarty", as he was known to his colleagues, was a dedicated and exceptionally hard-working airman.

"There is no doubt that he had a promising career ahead of him in the Royal Air Force," he said.

'Well-respected'

Sqn Ldr Wayne Tracey, in charge of No 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron, described him as "larger than life in every conceivable way".

"Popular, well-respected and dedicated, he possessed a rare, infectious cheek that often got him out of the most difficult situations," he said.

He added: "He was an exceptional man, a true ambassador for his profession and No 2 MT Squadron is an emptier place without him."

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said SAC Smart was providing a vital supply link for the RAF in their role protecting the civilian population of Libya.

"My thoughts go to his family and friends at this extremely sad time," he said.

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