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Death of SAS hopeful was 'avoidable' says coroner

"Ashley Hicks would not have died if the gorge had been identified and declared out of bounds."

Ashley Hicks died after a fall on a training exercise in Snowdonia
Ashley Hicks died after a fall on a training exercise in Snowdonia

A royal Marine’s death was “clearly avoidable” after he fell 100 feet into a gorge while taking part in an SAS selection exercise in Snowdonia, a coroner said.

Ashley Hicks, from Solihull, slipped into a gorge as he and five other soldiers were heading towards a rendezvous point near Trawsfynydd pursued by other soldiers in October 2012.

The hearing at Caernarfon heard the gorge was not identified as a hazard by officers planning the exercise.

Recording that the 25-year-old died as a result of an accident, North Wales deputy coroner Nicola Jones said: “The failure to identify the gorge in the planning stage is the most significant factor in this incident.

“Ashley Hicks would not have died if it had been identified and declared out of bounds.”

Soldier AA, the assistant chief of staff at the MoD responsible for specialist units, said: “We are quite proud of our map reading ability.

“On this occasion that ability was not enough to prevent the non-identification of this hazard. We have taken steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Ashley was expected by his colleagues to pass the gruelling course and become a member of the elite SAS Regiment.

Soldier R, who was the SAS officer in charge of choosing new recruits, said Marine Hicks was in the top ten students on the gruelling course.

The inquest heard that up to 250 people started each course and the pass rate was between 9-13 per cent.

Mr Hicks’ mother Virginia Lewis said after the inquest: “My family and I would like to thank the Royal Navy, Special Forces, Royal British Legion and counsel for their compassion and support in respect of the tragic death of our beloved son and brother which occurred
in the service of his country.

“In particular we would like to extend our special thanks to his colleagues who risked their own safety to be with him till the end and the valiant efforts of the aircrew who risked their lives to rescue him.”

 

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