Castlemartin: Soldiers died after tank blast during training

Darren Neilson and Matthew Hatfield Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Cpl Neilson (left) and Cpl Hatfield were described as "exceptionally talented soldiers"

Two soldiers died after an explosion in a tank during an exercise at the Castlemartin firing range in Pembrokeshire, an inquest has heard.

Corporals Matthew Hatfield and Darren Neilson from the Royal Tank Regiment died after the blast on 14 June.

The provisional cause of death for Cpl Hatfield was "burns", while Cpl Neilson suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of blast-related injuries, the Birmingham hearing was told.

Two other soldiers were injured.

One is still in a serious condition in hospital and the other has been discharged from hospital.

A police-led joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive and a separate Ministry of Defence service inquiry are currently under way.

Dyfed-Powys Police Det Ch Insp Ross Evans told Louise Hunt, senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, what happened after emergency services were called to an explosion on the range.

He said it was thought Cpl Neilson, 31, of Preston, Lancashire, was the tank commander and "we believe positioned within the turret" at the time of the blast.

Cpl Hatfield, 27, from Amesbury, Wiltshire, was the armoured vehicle's operator and was "loading the ammunition in the tank".

He was taken to Morriston Hospital in Swansea, but the father-of-one who was engaged to be married died the following day.

His colleague, a married father with a young daughter, was taken to University Hospital Wales in Cardiff, but also died on June 15.

Ms Hunt offered her condolences to the soldiers' families, who were present at the hearing, and told them a pre-inquest review would take place in February 2018.

She said a full inquest lasting up to three weeks would be held in Solihull in July 2018.

Releasing the bodies for funerals, she said: "I do so, so arrangements can be made for you to have your funeral, because it's important you are able to start that process."

Cpl Hatfield's mother said: "I'm glad now, I've got Matthew back."

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